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kimgraham

kimgraham
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Member since: 14.07.2001

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      29.09.2004 10:49
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      Some of you will know that I am a professional musician and instrumental teacher. You might also know that I got married last year to a fellow opinionator and moved to Devon, which is where he lived. For the first year I still had to "commute" to Hampshire to teach a couple of days a week. This meant that I had to leave my beautiful Bechstein upright piano behind.

      This meant that I needed an instrument to practise on in Devon but it had to be something on which I could teach on for eighteen months whilst separated from my "real" piano.

      John, not long after we became engaged bought me a lovely present. It was a Roland HP 137R digital piano.

      Obviously any electric, digital piano is not going to compare to a really good upright or grand acoustic piano but there are times when it isn't possible to have a "real" piano and these can be a very useful alternative or back up.

      Speaking as a teacher ,if a parent can't afford or does not want to spend lots on a reasonable piano then I would prefer the child to have a good digital piano rather than a honky tonk pub type piano that doesn't work properly.
      However that is only of any use if you buy a full sized 88 key digital piano with weighted keys. More of that later...

      There are several good makers of digital pianos, the most popular being Yamaha, Roland and Technics. These are the ones that professional musicians tend to choose between.

      John bought my Roland from a friend who was selling one which was only 6 months old but I researched them fairly thoroughly and shortly afterwards bought a brand new Roland for one of my daughters.
      I had experience of Roland and Yamaha at the school where I was Director of Music for a time , and had found them to be reliable.

      On to my particular model:

      Roland no longer make the HP 137 but it has only recently been discontinued and so will almost certainly still be available on the second hand market. Therefore I think it is still worth reviewing.

      I was not in the market for a keyboard, a very different piece of kit. I needed a piano which could do the work of my "real" piano although I wasn't averse to one or two extra functions.

      The 137 has sound sampling so that you can sound like a piano, harpsichord, church organ or electric piano. These are very handy and add a bit of diversity so that even when my real piano arrives ( oh please hurry!) I will still have a use for it. My pupils particularly like it when I switch to harpsichord mode to accompany their baroque pieces as it sounds authentic and they can imagine what the music would have sounded like when it was originally written.( Composers like Bach and Handel)

      There are one or two other features which are unique to an electric instrument. It is possible to alter the amount of reverb ( echo) so that you can sound as though you are playing in a small room, concert hall etc. I must admit, I tend to turn it off as I prefer it not to sound echoey but some players love this facility.

      The Roland HP137 has a sampled grand piano sound, as do most digital pianos. On the whole it sounds pretty much like an accoustic piano, but it has a slightly uneven sound across the range, the middle octave is a bit woolly and lacks oomph.The rest of the keyboard seems powerful enough for most of my needs and sounds very good.

      It has a hammer action keyboard and weighted keys to make it feel like a real piano. The difference with weighted keys is that they respond in volume according to the amount of pressure applied to the key. Keyboards don't do this usually, which is why I won't use them for teaching the piano. It has to be one of these beasties.

      I must admit, it is nice to play and does indeed feel very like a real piano in its action and responsivity.

      It is possible to set the touch to light, medium and heavy. I usually play on heavy as that feels most like my own piano. However, I recently had a terrible hand injury and cannot play a real piano at all for some time. My physiotherapist allows me to play the digital piano set to light so that I don't hurt my injured finger and the others don't get rusty! You would not believe how this is helping my sanity!!

      The case is in a rosewood effect and makes an attractive piece of furniture, not too cumbersome.
      The instrument has two pedals as would a "proper" piano. The "soft" pedal on the left has two functions. It can be used as a conventional una corda pedal, ie to make the instrument quieter whilst playing something gentle for instance.
      It can also be set to play as a sostenuto pedal.
      For those who don't know what a sostenuto pedal is, it is complicated and technical so I shan't bore you with it. If you look at some pianos and most grand pianos you will see that they have three pedals.Tthe sostenuto pedal is the middle one.

      Underneath the lefthand side of the keyboard close to your knee is a control knob. You have to use this to control the master volume and set the other functions. I had never encountered this sytem before and it is the weak link of the instrument I feel. The idea is that you press the knob below and simultaneously press a designated key for each effect to take place.

      Fortunately the model which has superceded it has gone back to having the controls on the top. I can see that the under instrument controller would be handy in school so that irritating kids can't tamper with the settings whilst you are demonstrating things with them round the piano!

      It is a nuisance to operate though, if I want to change something mid piece I have to stop and fumble about whereas with the other system you can keep playing and lurch with one hand for the appropriate button. This is particularly vital with the volume control in case you have mis -set it! Play up Mrs Van der Kiste you are being drowned by the children's singing!! Er, singing?

      The other features on this particular model are the ability to slightly alter the pitch, helpful if you are accompanying an instrument that can't be brought to the correct pitch ( A 440hz). You can also transpose ( change key) which is useful if you have a singer who can't quite hit the high notes....

      If you are into technology there is midi interface and you can connect to your computer or to other midi instruments, sound samplers etc.To do this you have to purchase the midi cable separately.It costs about £20 but is useful if you want to play music into your computer.

      One advantage for me is that the piano has a headphone socket so I can practice at ungodly hours without disturbing anyone.Very useful!

      If size matters to you ( and whoever said size doesn't matter is fibbing!) then this little beauty won't take up too much room in your sitting room. It weighs 36kg without the stand so is fairly reasonable to move around. When erected it is 1390mm wide, 440mm deep and 820mm tall.

      The piano is not supplied with a stool. You can pick up a Roland adjustable piano stool for about £80 or there is a good chap on Ebay who does super adjustable piano stools for £50. I bought two and they are terrific.

      On the whole I am very happy with this digital piano. It isn't the same as my accoustic piano, but no electric piano is going to be. For what it is it is one of the best I have tried, barring the slightly woolly middle octave and the inconvenient control button. These are things I can live with and I have derived much pleasure from playing it.

      I would recommend Roland digital pianos if yoiu are not in a position to have a nice accoustic instrument.

      If you want loads of gismos there are models that will give you far more, but that is a different market!

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      • greasypalm.co.uk / Internet Site / 11 Readings / 20 Ratings
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        21.09.2004 08:40
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        Gosh, do I have something to share with you!

        About a year ago a friend introduced me to Greasypalm. When I first started there the site was quite small and the money earning potential was a bit limited. I will admit however, that we did do quite well from it anyway. In any event, fairly recently the site had a major overhaul and now has in excess of 650 retail outlets.

        So what is it all about, you may be wondering?

        Greasypalm is a shopping site with a difference. It is a means of doing your normal shopping but you get a bonus for going to your retailer via the Greasypalm links. The good news is that it pays out in real money. It really does, honestly!

        The first thing you need to do is to register on the site. Greasypalm immediately credit your account with £2.50 to start you off. You can add an extra 35p by setting it as your homepage. I haven't done this as I am with AOL and rarely use Explorer these days.

        When you go to the site you will see on the left a long list of categories. I will not bore you by providing a complete list as you can look on the site to see for yourselves. You will see a very diverse selection of category. A few are:

        Insurance
        Finance
        Food and Drink
        Health and Beauty
        Motoring
        Travel
        Books
        Music
        Electrical
        Clothes and Fashion
        Phones

        Have I whetted your appetite yet? I will tell you a bit more.

        In each category you will find a comprehensive list of retailers stating the discount or cashback. What you can earn is a variable amount. Some companies offer a money back discount, which is quite generous in some cases; others offer a percentage.

        I will give you a few examples from different categories. Let's start with books as I know so many of you are book addicts:

        In BOOKS you will find most of the major retailers and I will share a small proportion with you.

        Amazon are a recent addition and are currently offering 3% cashback. The there is Bol with a generous 10%, the BBC shop with 3.75 and Books for Children give you £2.50 for joining. In fact many of the usual book clubs are there with a cash incentive.

        INSURANCE:

        Most forms of insurance are covered here by reputable firms plus some I had not heard of, which doesn't mean to say that they are not reputable, of course!
        You can insure your home, car, pet or holiday.

        LLOYDS offer a very generous £30 for home or car insurance and £20 for pet insurance. I did this and it halved the insurance bill on one of my cats! The only problem is that for the last few weeks the LLoyds link is going straight to a motor insurance quotation page. Hopefully they will rectify that shortly.

        CHURCHILL ( they with the cute nodding dog) offer £12.50 for car insurance and £6.00 for pet insurance.

        DIRECT LINE is £6 for motor and £5 for home or pet insurance,

        EAGLE STAR £12.50 for any insurance

        ZURICH £25.00

        There are loads more but that should give you an idea.

        On to a few from FOOD AND DRINK:

        This is a section I use a lot. We buy our wine by the case through the net and if we link through Greasypalm we benefit twice over as the internet deals are also so good!

        VIRGIN WINES 2.5%
        MAJESTIC WINES 3.75% This one is particularly good as they do not charge delivery, so you are better off than buying from the supermarket and you don't have to lug the heavy bottles home.
        BAGOFSWEETS 3.5% This is a firm that specialises in old fashioned sweets- retro candy, like we had as children.
        CHOCOLATETRADINGCOMPANY:3.5%
        DOMINOS PIZZA 1.75%
        REALBEERBOX 2.5%
        You will also find Tesco and sometimes Iceland.

        The ELECTRICAL section as you would expect has the ubiquitous trio- Comet, Curry's and Dixons all offering 1.75%
        You will also find the Viking Direct, BTshop, Maplins, Jessops and Appliance direct, amongst others.
        I am not quite sure why a camera shop is in electrical- in fact there are a couple of sites in slightly odd categories so it is worth checking the full retailer list if you want someone specific. It is in alphabetical order and can be accessed quite quickly.

        SKY are offering £10 when you organise your installation through the Greasypalm site.They did that just after we had ours put in. Typical!

        Most of the big department stores have a link, such as Debenhams and John Lewis. These are found mostly in the CLOTHES and FASHION section. You will also encounter Marks and Spencer, Laura Ashley, Jeansdirect, LaSenza, River Island,Contessa, Figleaves and Jones the Bootmaker, to name but a few.

        There are many familiar high street stores such as Argos, Index and Mothercare.

        If you are into computers the Apple shop is there as are Dell, Dabs and PCWorld

        These days there is much competition amongst the banks and many people are looking to change their bank account. If this applies to you it might be worth looking at the financial section. Many of the main credit cards are there offering ready cash for completing an application form, and don't forget that you are not obliged to use it.!Some even give you a reduced amount for applying even if you are turned down. The same applies to current accounts.

        At the moment we are having a new kitchen built and fitted so I am benefitting by B and Q and MFI being there and the builders keep giving me orders from Screwfix! We have also decided to change some appliances and we are able to save several hundreds of pounds.This is because not only does Greasypalm give you cashback but also because they are affiliated to several retailers who sell discounted goods!


        I really can't recommend Greasypalm enough. I have only used it for things I was going to buy anyway but it adds a bit of extra income. You aren't going to get rich quick and afford to retire, but it is a steady trickle which always helps.

        The site pay once a month but only each time you reach a minimum of £25. The award does not go onto your account immediately as it has to be cleared by the retailer first. That being said, some are very quick, others are not but it all ends up in the account eventually.

        You will notice some other headings on the homepage. I don't bother with them much but will tell you anyway.

        FAST CASH: This merely tells you of the best current deals and is worth a look- oh, I forgot to mention that you can also sign up for the deal of the month to be sent to you by email.

        DAILYWIN: This is a scratch card.

        TELL A FRIEND: This is self explanatory. You recommend a friend and are entered for the £100 prize draw. I have never won it, but hey, it might be you!

        PRIZES: Not much money here unless you win, I am afraid. You can earn the odd 35p for signing up to lots of lotto sites.

        FAVOURITES: This is also obvious, but a welcome addition. I have my regular links in my favourites and it saves me trawling through the site to find them.

        COUPONS: This is where to find introductory discounts which you get as well as the money back offer. There are plenty of them so it's worth a look every now and again.

        FREEBIES: Money back for joining things with no strings attached. Well, that's what it says!

        On the whole the site is well set out and easy to navigate.It is also nice and fast on my broadband connection and not too bad on Dial up .I know they pay as I have already banked two cheques and my son in law has made £300 in seven months. Not bad, eh?
        Greasypalm is a growing site and often adds new outlets. There is asuggestions link where you can ask for a retailer to be added. They can't promise, obviously, but they try hard to get businesses to join the site.

        Do go and look, I think it's great and the nice thing is that you nothing to lose, there are no catches. Have fun shopping!!




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        • Moss Bros / Highstreet Shopping / 4 Readings / 20 Ratings
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          12.12.2003 21:44
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          Finally I have returned after months of moving and planning the wedding! It will probably not come as any surprise that I will choose to write some reviews on my experiences surrounding my wedding to break myself back in gently! Do not expect great things, I am so rusty I clank! We had originally decided that the hire of morning suits for our big day would come from Debenhams. Unfortunately, my father and brother in law did not have one within a travellable distance and so we swapped to Moss bros. It was interesting going there as a second choice, as John had already been measured etc by Debenhams and so we could compare the two. Most big towns have a Moss Bros with a formal dress hire department. They supply quite a wide range of formalwear to suit most tastes. It is easy to only associate Moss Bros with wedding suits, but in fact you can also use it for formal dinners, a trip to Ascot, receiving your OBE etc! The range is quite big and I would suggest calling in to the local branch and picking up a brochure so that you can peruse it at leisure over a cuppa, and decide which is the style and colour for you. It might also be worth checking if they have any offers at this stage such as Bridegroom Goes Free. At the time of booking suits for our chaps, the offer was that if you booked four suits the fourth was free for the bridegroom. However, we were told that the offer would not be running at the time of our wedding, as it is one which comes and goes, so we booked there and then, and paid in full , three months early. We thought it was worth it to save seventy odd pounds! The brochure is well presented and you can see all the different suits modelled to give you an idea of what you might look like in a penguin suit! Traditionally for a wedding the men wear morning suits with or without top hats and gloves. They come in a choice of colour, the most popular being grey or black with striped trousers. We chose
          the latter for our male attendants and something slightly different for John so that he would stick out from the rest. More of that later, but those of you who have seen John dance will realise that he would have stood out whatever he was wearing! You can also get morning suits for boys from the age of five but my page boys were a bit younger so I had to sort them out elsewhere. If you are not too keen on the tail coat or think it is not "you" give it a try before discounting it. It is a special day and you might surprise yourself. When we were planning our wedding John said that he felt formal dress was not "him". My retort was, " How often do you see me going round in a Victorian dress with bustle?!" It wasn't "me" either, but that is the whole point of formal dress. It is a one off for a special occasion. John liked his in the end, once he gave up fighting!! If you try it on and you still feel uncomfortable, there are alternatives. Moss Bros do a knee length frock coat- very Mr Darcy! And a slightly shorter frock coat called " the Goodwood". This was the suit that John chose and it looked very smart and blended well with the tail coats of the other men. You can also get highland dress and white tie and even ordinary lounge suits, so Moss do really cater for most eventualities. Having chosen your suit you then have to choose your accessories. As part of your hire package you get a cravat and a waistcoat and sometimes a wing collar shirt, depending on the package you choose. We also had matching hankies. I believe you may also hire shoes, but somehow that did not appeal to us and John bought a nice smart new pair of Oxfords especially for the occasion. There is a good range of colours in the waistcoats and cravats so that you can marry up ( 'scuse the pun) to the brides colour scheme. We went for gold?s and ivory and burgundy. We could just as easily have had lilac
          s, silvers or greens. At this point you go into the shop to book your suits. Moss Bros generally ask for a deposit, but we paid everything in advance. When you collect your suits you have to pay a holding deposit of £100 per suit against damage. They do this by swiping your credit card. Assuming that the suit is returned in good condition they merely rip up the credit card slip. If you cover it in gravy I suppose they will cash it! The prices were fairly comparable to the other hire shops we investigated. We paid £70 per outfit. This will vary a bit according to which extras you have. They measure the chaps in the shop and it does not matter if it is across several branches as they open a party booking where everything is organised by one store who collate all the information. John had been measured originally in Debenhams, as I said previously. That fitting had taken half an hour and the utmost care was taken with every detail. We were, therefore, somewhat surprised by Moss Bros which was less than five minutes and really was rather slapdash. Part of the reason for using Moss was to make it easier with our male attendants so fat flung. There was a co-ordinating branch who was supposed to make sure that everything was the same. Sadly, this is where things fell down a bit. John went to Plymouth to get his and three other suits. They had a suit missing, nothing could be done in time and so we were an usher short. My father had phoned from his branch to say they did not stock the cravat which was on our list. I spoke to a very thick sounding assistant who informed me that Moss had never made that particular cravat. She was somewhat nonplussed when I told her that we already had three! We resolved that particular crisis. Then we discovered that we had not been given enough cravat pins which entailed racing back to the shop the day before the wedding. The top button on John's shirt was hanging off so that had to be fixed. Finally we th
          ought all was well and we set off for the rehearsal. We were met there by our esteemed best man Mr Iain Wear, no less, and told him our tale of woe over the suits. When we got home he showed us his, and he had been given the wrong cravat. It was actually a very smart cravat, but apart from the fact it was a slightly different colour and fabric , it was one of those which you have to tie yourself. We had deliberately chosen "Cravats for dummies" i.e. ready tied on a clip, partly because we thought they looked nice and also to reduce stress levels on the morning of the wedding! Well, we all looked at this thing.. None of us had a clue. We decided not to lose sleep, surely someone coming might be able to tie up Mr Wear before the ceremony. As he arrived fully clothed, I assume he worked it out! All in all, we were not impressed by the general level of care by Moss Bros. One of the wing collar shirts was not especially clean and all creased where it tucks into the trouser waist band, so we think it missed a wash, and one of the waistcoats had a button missing. I do not intend to get married again, as I have been so wise in my choice of husband, but when my daughters get married I am not sure that I will rush to Moss. The men all looked very handsome and on the whole the suits etc were nice, I just thought too many mistakes were made. In Moss Bros defence though, when I moaned they gave me back the money I had paid for the suit which never materialised plus £25 for the less thasn perfect shirts and waistcoats. I would have preferred my extra usher, though!

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          • Juniors in general / Parenting Issue / 2 Readings / 31 Ratings
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            22.02.2003 06:48
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            WHAT IS LOVE IF FULL OF CARE THERE IS NOT TIME TO BE AWARE! Oh hello! I forgot that I wasn’t alone for a moment. Do excuse the poetic licence of the little verse above. It is Malu, you see, she challenged me to one of these first love opinions and it really has my brain whirring! Those of you that have followed my ops over the last eighteen months will know that for most of my adult life I was involved in a hugely abusive relationship. Having escaped and rebuilt my life I had decided not to look back, no little peeks back over the shoulder. I rarely look back but as Malu asked SO nicely! Also this entails looking a lot further back; back to a time where youngsters wore loons, great coats and thigh high boots, although not necessarily all at the same time! A time where petrol was less than £1 a gallon and a pint of beer cost pennies. Am I really that ancient? Yes, I am afraid so! Let me take you back to 1973. I was in my mid teens and spent most of my social time with friends from my youth orchestra. Youth orchestras are often a hot bed of lust and this one was no different. There were many pairings and many swapping about. One or two eventually married and are still together! I initially had a couple of very casual boyfriends from the orchestra but I certainly didn’t love them! One day I noticed a new male flautist had joined our ranks. In those days male flute players were not especially commonplace as this was just prior to James Galway hitting the musical headlines in a big way. He seemed a very amenable chap and boy could he play the piccolo. I have rarely heard his rival although my daughter Hannah would probably have given him a run for his money! I became friendly with this chap, whose name was Paul. I can talk about him by name, as sadly, he is now dead. We started off by being part of quite a large group but gradually our feelings grew and we started going off by ourselves. Be
            fore long we were inseparable. He was the first bloke I slept with willingly. If that makes no sense, it might help you to know that I was raped as a child. The relationship blossomed as the months went on. We had many interests in common and enjoyed each other’s company. We particularly liked making music together and I often accompanied him at the piano. He particularly enjoyed playing Bach, I remember. About six months later we went to see an early showing of “A Clockwork Orange”. This was shortly before it was banned! Paul proposed to me half way through the film. I am not sure I took much in after that. The music playing at that part of the film was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no 4. I still feel nostalgic when I hear it, even now! His parents were thrilled about our engagement. Mine were not. Actually, they were furious. Looking back on it as a parent myself I can see where they were coming from I suppose (she says grudgingly!) At around this time decisions had to be made about our further education and prospective careers. We had both decided to become professional musicians. For my part I had been accepted into all the major London music colleges, so it was merely a case of choosing one. Paul was a bit worried about the idea of Music College and decided that he would become a bandsman in the RAF. I wasn’t ever so happy about this as it wasn’t a career that would dovetail with mine particularly well. I also thought he would be better off in a symphony orchestra like me. No offence intended to any military musicians, incidentally! In the event the decision was made that Paul would join the RAF. He was fitted for his uniform and looked quite scrummy if memory serves correctly! So it was that a few weeks later a slightly tearful Kim found herself on Kings Cross Station waving him off on his new career. It started with six weeks of basic training in Lincolnshire. We had nev
            er really been separated much before, and it was an experience I did not much enjoy! I threw myself into my time at Music College and the six weeks eventually passed. It had been mad easier as Paul was an avid letter writer and I received a new letter every couple of days. For his passing out parade Paul’s Dad had hired a minibus and several friends went along as well as his parents and grandparents. When I arrived at his parents’ house I was surprised to see a girl sitting in the minibus. She was a slight friend of mine and an old girlfriend of Paul’s. Her name was Kathy and she also played the flute. I discreetly enquired of Paul’s mother what she was doing there. It seemed that she had got back in contact with Paul and they had begun a correspondence while he was training. He had asked for her to go to the parade. I must admit, I did think that it was a bit odd that he hadn’t mentioned it to me, but no matter! Our wedding was planned for the following year when Paul had had time to save up enough money to support us whilst I finished college. Everything in the garden was extremely rosy - or so I thought. The parade went well and we all bundled into the minibus to go back to London. Paul sat in between Kathy and myself and hardly said a word to me all the way back. He engaged in very lively conversation with Kathy, however. By the time we got home I was feeling distinctly uneasy. I spoke to Paul’s Dad, but he thought I was worrying about nothing. Kathy left and Paul and I were at last on our own. Suddenly everything seemed normal again and he was much more caring and attentive. He was home for two weeks before being posted elsewhere. We saw a fair bit of each other but I still had lectures to attend at college. When the two weeks were up I found myself on Kings Cross Station, again! About five minutes before the train was due to leave Paul suddenly turned to me and said that our engagement was
            off and that he had fallen in love with Kathy! I was somewhat taken aback. We agreed to remain friends and I returned his ring. My insides were ripped apart but it all remained very civilised. Time is a great healer - what a cliché, but it is true! We kept in touch for a year or two but then we both got married and had children. I never forgot my first love, but his important place in my life diminished, as I grew older. I scarcely gave him another thought, until one day in the mid 1980’s I saw a news flash on the television. A coach carrying an RAF band in Germany had collided with a petrol tanker. My ears pricked up, as I knew this was the band with which Paul played. Most of the band had been burnt to death. I listened to the list of names of the deceased men. Paul was one of them. It shook me to the core. He was only in his twenties. All the memories of the happy times we shared came flooding back. Shortly after the funeral I got in touch with Paul’s parents and they asked me to go and see them. I decided it could do no harm, so organised a trip to London. I was living in Hampshire by then. It seemed so strange to see them after all those years, and they were touchingly thrilled to see me. I was rather flattered, in a way. After a cup of tea and a chat Paul’s mother asked me to go with her to look in a cupboard. I followed her along the corridor and there, in a display cabinet were all our engagement cards and presents. It felt strangely eerie. She asked if I would like them. It was tempting, as there was some rather nice crystal, but I felt that they should stay where they were. Some dogs are best left sleeping, I think! The interesting thing was that Paul’s interests and mine had gone along very similar routes over the years. I wondered for a time whether he would have still been alive if I had made more fuss about him joining up. Fate is a funny thing though, and I am sure we all have a
            few “what ifs” lurking around the old psyche. Looking back is strange. I hadn’t thought about any of this for a number of years. I am glad that I did though. All our experiences go towards making us the person we are. It made me wonder whether or not it was really love that I felt for Paul. I think in retrospect that it probably was. I was certainly convinced of it at the time. I have been in love a couple more times during the intervening years as have most of us, I suppose, and each experience has been really different. Which are the most important? It has to be the first and the last for me. I never believed it was possible to love anybody more than my first love. I was happy for that to have been my one definitive, overwhelming experience. It didn’t matter to me if I never found that feeling again as I considered myself lucky to have been there once in my life time. Then I met my other half and knew that what I had before with any other man was only a very diluted version of what love really could be. Funny isn’t it how much you learn, as you get older!

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            • More +
              14.02.2003 13:11
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              There are several Liquid nightclubs and this opinion is about the Basingstoke branch. For some years Basingstoke has been sadly deprived of a decent nightclub. The previous one was demolished in the colossal rebuilding of the town. After three years of chaos and manic building the new ?Festival Place? finally opened in October 2002. At last, Basingstoke had a new nightclub. Liquid is conveniently situated on the very edge of the town centre. It is on the end of the bus station and a minute?s walk from the train station, so no need for drinking and driving! If you are happy to drink lemonade, parking is plentiful and immediately above the club. There is a drop off point for disabled people and taxis just outside with a lowered kerb for wheelchair access. The entrance to the club is inconspicuous but your attention is drawn by the clever lights which have the Liquid logo rotating over the floors and walls. When you enter the club you may or may not be frisked by the burly bouncers- ooh!! And yes, there are lady bouncers too, but don?t get excited boys, the lady bouncers only search the girls! Being security and drugs conscious, Liquid also have the odd sniffer dog! Immediately inside the entrance is the pay desk, fees vary from £2-£7, depending on the day and time. The later you come the more it will cost you. Prices are subject to change. You may join the club as a member. Membership is free and brings the following benefits: £1 off your admission apart from Saturday when you can save a generous £2. Sometimes you may receive a special SMS which if shown at the door allows you free entry! Members will also receive, on the Thursday closest to their birthday, a birthday pack which gets the member plus their friends in free before 10.30. They also get a free bottle of bubbly!! It is compulsory to surrender your coat, unless you are sporting a small jacket. This is for fire and s
              afety reasons. The cloakroom costs £1.50 per item and only one item per hanger, maximum compensation for damage or loss is £65. The company accepts no liability for damage or loss of items contained within pockets or bags deposited in the cloakroom. Do not lose your ticket, or you will have a very cold night! Articles without tickets will be handed back only at the end of the night, and at the manager?s discretion. Now you have negotiated the perils of the cloakroom, you are ready to have fun! OPENING DAY?S/TIME?S Monday- Closed Tuesday- Closed Wednesday- 9.30-2.00 Thursday- 9.30-2.00 Friday- 9.00-2.00 Saturday- 9.00-2.00 Sunday- 9.30-12.30 Last admission is at 1am except on Sundays when it is 12am THE HOLDING BAR: This is the first bar you come to. Early in the evening this bar is shut off from the main bit of the club and the main part opens up when there is sufficient demand! It is very comfortable in the holding bar. There are comfy seats and it is carpeted and is nice and warm! ( so you won?t miss your jacket!!) There is music, but it starts off at a reasonable volume so that you can chat without difficulty and enjoy a few drinks before the more frenetic part of the evening. THE MAIN CLUB: The shutters come up when the holding bar is full. This is done ceremoniously to the dramatic opening of Carmina Burana ( O Fortuna) by Carl Orff. This is the only time you will hear classical music in the club! There are three bars in chrome. The walls are painted white, and believe it or not, the dirty patches are repainted every day! There is a pleasant blue carpet with a design to make it look like water and the dance floor is of white marble. The club is not huge and has a capacity of 1010. It has high tech sound and lighting systems and Class A lasers. There are also podium dancers in skimpy costumes. These dancers are both male and
              female, to suit all tastes! There are loos on both sides of the club and these are regularly checked by the door staff, so no thoughts of funny business!! THE VIP BAR: Entrance to this more exclusive bar is at the managements? discretion. This is the only bar where you can buy Dom Perignon! ( at a price!) There are more comfy chairs and the bar is candlelit. It is quieter and a nice place to chill out in it?s relaxing atmosphere. MUSIC: The music varies and there are theme nights. Wednesday - Funky Fish, music from the 70?s 80?s and 90?s Thursday - Ice, chart, dance and party Friday - Rhythm of a Nation, commercial dance and chart music Saturday - Lavish, commercial dance and chart music, some R? n?B Sunday - Slammin? , R?n?B and chart DRINKS: The club sells draught beers: Castlemaine xxxx ( which is a replacement for Heineken which is being discontinued nationally), Stella Artois and Boddingtons. Bottled beers include: Stella, Castlemaine xxxx, Labatts Ice, Swan low alcohol. Alcopops include: VK flavours, Smirnoff Ice, V Ice, Boru orange and lemon. Non alcoholic: J20, pepsi, lemonade, bottled waters, red bull. SPIRITS: full range WINE and CHAMPAGNE: red and white wines, Moet et Chandon, Bollinger and Dom Perignon ( in the VIP!) SPECIAL DRINKS OFFERS: Wednesday- selected drinks £1 before midnight and £1.50 thereafter Thursday - selected drinks BOGOF Sunday - selected drinks £1 HOW TO PAY: The club takes all cards except American Express, but it has to come to at least £5 on the door and £ 10 at the bar. Obviously they take cash, but no cheques and you can?t open a tab. FOOD: You might get a little bit peckish after all that jiving! Liquid sells Pizzas by the slice or a whole pizza. You may choose from Cheese and Tomato, Ham and Pineapple or Pepperoni. They use differe
              nt spatulas etc for each pizza to avoid cross contamination. A whole pizza will cost you £6 and a slice of pizza £1.50 DRESS CODE: Wed/Thurs/Sun, casual dress, jeans and trainers are allowed. NO sportswear, nothing with a flag or number as this can be seen as sports wear! Fri/Sat, smart casual, smart denim ok, NO trainers or sportswear The doorman?s decision is final. AGE/ID REQUIREMENTS: Wed/Thurs/Sun, is for 18 and over Fri/Sat, is for 19 and over You may be asked to prove your age. Only driving licences and passports are accepted. They will not take Prove It cards, as these can be purchased on the internet blackmarket for a tenner!! I know, as my 15 year old daughter ? borrowed? my bank card and bought herself one! We have yet to find it to remove it from her! BOOK IN ADVANCE AND JUMP THE QUEUES! You can pre-book your tickets over the phone using your plastic. This is only available on Fridays and Saturdays. You can phone at any time during the day up until 4pm on the day you wish to book for. Saturday it is £5 per person. You can come straight to the front of the queue to collect your ticket and laugh at the others freezing their butts off in the snow!! Incidentally, even if you have pre-booked, you may still be asked to show ID. If you do not have it you will be turned away and then the queue will all laugh at you!! PICK UP A FLYER: Flyers offer different deals for different nights, it may be money off the entrance fee or a free drink! Not to be sneezed at! You can pick these up in the club or at selected shops in the town. EXTRA FACILITIES: The club has one pay phone situated opposite the cloakroom. There are also two cigarette machines, one next to the pay phone and the other on the far side of the dance floor. Cigarettes are £5 per packet. There are two very addictive fruit machines, which now take notes (£5?s, £10?s, £20?s and £50?s!!) For pre-booked tickets or private hire call 01256 334928 I highly recommend this club, it looks great, the lighting and music are fantastic, especially on a Wednesday, and it is a brilliant night out!

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              • Motorola T191 / Mobile Phone / 0 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                11.02.2003 14:16
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                I have been a proud owner of mobile phones for about the last 9 years. As a general rule I happily stick to Nokias with the odd foray into Ericsson. Unfortunately, my sixteen year old daughter also has a penchant for mobile phones. Her favourite hobby for the last two years has been to see how far she can run up the phone bills in a short a time as possible! She doesn't care whether it is her mobile phone, mine or the house phone. She has run up £3,000 of phone bills in eighteen months.No, that is not a typo, it really does say three thousand pounds! It doesn't matter how carefully I hide my mobile phone Caroline always finds it! My very first mobile phone was a Mitsubishi analogue one. This had a very useful feature that you could programme it so that you had to input a code before making any call. At Christmas yet another bill came for my Nokia and I could take no more. You could lock the Nokia but this was only any use if it was turned off. Once the phones are turned on anyone can use them, seemingly. This seems to me to be a very dubious security lapse. After all, if your phone is stolen the thief can have fun on your phone at your expense, until the battery runs down! Bearing this in mind I paid a visit to several mobile phone suppliers in my local town over the Christmas period. I said that I wanted to buy a phone that needed a code before ANY call could be made. Most looked at me blankly until I got to the "Carphone Warehouse". I was assured that the only phone that they had which would do this was the Motorola T191.I purchased one for £89 on Pay as you Go, on the understanding that it would work if I placed my contract sim card into it. It did! I excitedly set off for home with my rather smart new phone. I read the manual from cover to cover but could not find a way of locking the phone to all outgoing calls. If anyone knows how, please tell me as I am now desperate! I decided to
                take the phone back after Christmas as it did not do what I asked for. Then I became attached to it! On the whole this is a super little phone. It is small and lightweight. It is about the length of the palm of my hand not including the stubby rubber aerial. It weighs 99 grams and mine is quite a smart silver colour. If you are into changing fascias then this is not the phone for you, and that was a slight disappointment for me. I believe you can get this phone in other colours, but I have yet to see one! It has quite a large screen and is easy to read. There is a green backlight which you have the choice to enable or switch off. I find that the backlight makes reading the letters and numbers on the buttons very difficult indeed. KEYPAD: The keypad is my one real gripe with this phone. The buttons are very small. I have a very small hand and I have difficulty manipulating them. My other half, who has a much larger hand, commented that he also found the keyboard difficult to manage. BATTERY: I find the battery life on this phone quite reliable. It has a standby of 120 hours and 5 hours of talk time. I have found this to be adequate for my needs. RECEPTION: I have found it to be excellent with very few dropped calls. WAP: The phone is WAP enabled and has an integrated link to the main email ISP's, such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Freeserve, BTinternet and AOL. I found this really useful. WAP is slow, however, and expensive. It took me ages to find out how to log out on the couple of occasions I tried it. I will not be in a hurry to use it again. On the integrated AOL you can even access your buddy list. When I first had the phone I had arranged a time to IM other half on AOL and was delayed. No problem, thought I! I will briefly contact him via the 'phone and explain that I was running late. It was useless, it took ages and there were too many stages to go through to get to the IM window. T
                hat put me off using it again. You could almost see the pound notes flashing before your eyes! This was a particular problem also, due to the too small buttons on the keypad. I like the 'phone, but I won't be in a hurry to avail myself of it's Wap facility! PHONEBOOK: There is a large phonebook with space for 200 numbers to be stored. You have the choice of saving them to the sim card or to the phone itself. Once you have entered the numbers into the phone book you have the option to assign a voice tag for voice dialling. Some people find this very useful. Me? Oh, I am an old fashioned girl and prefer just to dial the number! SCREENSAVER: The phone comes with a couple of inbuilt screen savers, mine is a large smiley face, or you can download others from the Motorola site using your WAP service. THE MENU: The menu is fairly straightforward. I got muddled to start with as I was so used to a Nokia, but I very soon adapted to this style of menu. It has a large menu bar on the front of the phone and you scroll around the pictorial menu by using the up and down arrows, pretty much like any other phone. SMS: These days you can send text messages from all mobile phones, and it is utterly commonplace to see people frantically typing messages on their mobile phones! My beloved is a bit of a dinosaur and does not own a mobile phone, so I restrict my texting activities to my children and one friend. Sorry John- don't really think you are a dinosaur!! Actually I am rather glad in a way that he doesn't own a phone, as continual texting can become incredibly invasive very quickly. I have a friend at school who is in a relatively new relationship and they text each other all day! Fortunately she has it on silent, or her pupils might complain! There are a choice of alert tones for receiving text messages, and these are not as irritating as some I have heard! You can have SMS chat on the T191, this
                is a bit like ' conference texting', i.e. to multiple users. There are icons you can display in your messages as well as the usual emoticons. If you like it you can use a predictive text setting, but I have a pathological loathing of predictive texting, preferring to use the standard setting. In case anybody doesn?t know, predictive texting is when you type a letter and the phone tries to guess the rest of the word! It is supposed to be quick, but I find it so difficult that it takes ages! There are also a useful selection of quick, ready printed messages available, such as ' I am going to be late!' etc. POWER SAVER: This is a very useful feature, which slightly helps me to keep Caroline off the phone! You can set the T191 to switch off and on again at pre -designated times. I have mine automatically switch off at 8pm and not come back on again until the following morning. This means that she can't make calls between those times unless she knows the code. Cunning, eh?! I would imagine this would be really handy if you have to keep your phone turned off for any reason, perhaps at work or in the cinema etc. How many times have you forgotten to turn your phone back on and missed a vital call? I believe its real function is to preserve battery life, but it has other redeeming features, as I have described. I have never come across this function on a mobile phone before. I expect you are all going to tell me it is very common nowadays! GAMES: Everyone seems to enjoy a game on their phone to waste a few boring minutes! This little phone has five games to choose from: Snake, Numbers, Tetris, Brick, Five Stone, and Box World. ADDITIONAL FEATURES: You can use the calendar, calculator, stop watch and alarm. The alarm clock is useful and I use it daily. There is the option to set it to go off daily or just as a one off . It is very loud, so not much chance of oversleeping! The phone can also bleep on the h
                our as a reminder, and it bleeps once a minute during calls. I found this quite useful as it is easy to stay on the phone rather too long when you lose track of time! RINGTONES: There are twenty seven ring tones and two empty slots into which you can compose your own ring tone, if you have a bent that way! There is also the option oh having the call ring, vibrate, or do both. It can vibrate first and then ring, which is useful if you don't want to miss a call but don't want a loud ring if you are in public, for instance. If you really think you might miss an important call you can set the phone to vibrate and ring simultaneously. QUICK ACCESS MENU: There is an easy access button so that you don't have to trawl through the menu for regularly used features, such as message inbox, vibrator on or off, ( Ann Summers eat your heart out!) or last missed call. Obviously the phone has all the standard features, such as a call registry, volume control etc. You can obtain a hands free kit for it, for which there is a special profile. It is also possible to buy an in-car charger and spare batteries. I was quite impressed to see an automatic time zone adjustment for when you are travelling abroad. The phone is dual band, by the way. COST: This isn't a particularly new phone and so you can pick it up with a contract for nothing. If you want it Sim Free, then you are looking at approximately £119. I bought mine on Pay as You Go and use my contract Sim Card in it. That cost me about £89. On balance I like this little phone, and I did not take it back! It is small enough to fit neatly into a pocket without making a bulge. It won't do much for your lunch box- sorry guys! It is discreet and easy to navigate, the reception and battery life are good and it has a very good range of features for the price. I am never going to like the keypad much and it lets the phone down just a little. If you ca
                n get used to it, then it is a very good little phone. I will leave you with a tip- the green and red buttons for answering and hanging up calls seem to be the opposite way round from most phones! Until I got used to this I was continually hanging up on people when trying to answer incoming calls! If you are looking for a mobile phone that will not break the bank, or if you want to be that little bit different and not own a Nokia, then it might just be worth taking a look at the Motorola T191.

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                  25.01.2003 21:30
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                  Those of you that know me well know that I have a penchant for expensive perfume! It is one of my many vices. To me, fragrance is a very individual thing, and you may want a few different perfumes to suit different moods and occasions. Unfortunately this can mean having to spend quite a bit of your hard earned cash. It is always a pleasant surprise to find a favourite scent on special offer or to discover a good quality product which is priced to please the bank manager! Lacoste for women is a very reasonable price for a top quality perfume. I discovered it at Christmas when looking for something for a change. I thought that my significant other might be getting bored with the all too familiar whiff of my usual favourite and thought something else might be nice. Did he notice? Did he heck! but that's men for you! Mind you, I am a great believer that you should sometimes do things just for yourself and my perfume buying habit is, it must be said, mostly for my own gratification. I am sure most women would agree with that. Lacoste for women is the first female fragrance produced by Lacoste.They have been in the male fragrance market for some time and finally decided to give the ladies a look-in! It is rather a good first attempt. It costs £14 for 50mls of Eau de Toilette. I managed to get mine on special offer with a roll on deodorant thrown in. At the time of purchase I had my reservations about the staying power of a perfume which was so reasonably priced. My worries were unfounded as it easily lasts all day and doesn't "turn" as some less expensive fragrances do on me! You are probably wondering what it smells like? It is quite an unusual smell, very clean and rather seductive. It is a fresh, natural smell rather than a flowery or heavily musky one. It is a real mixture; there are fruity and spicy tones made up of orange juice, pear, pineapple, pink peppercorns and green apple. You could b
                  e forgiven for thinking that you might pong a tad of fruit salad! Not so! These fruity aromas are tempered by a slightly green and floral note. This comes from white roses,white tulips, green moss, sandalwood and linden blossom. Surely now you smell of fruit salad next to a vase of flowers?! No! To make the smell more sexy it has an infusion of iced tea, carrot extract and just a hint of white musk. ( I am not awfully sure why carrots and tea should be considered sexy, but there you are!) It is a large ingredient list and I would not be at all surprised if you were to think it must be a very heavy smell. Strangely, it isn't. Lacoste has the balance just right. It is a sensual fragrance and is quite light without giving an air of prissiness or fragility. This is an ideal perfume for a woman who likes to exude strength and yet retain some femininity and sensuality. It would be ideal for a lady with some authority, perhaps! Over all it is a clean and slightly spicy smell, and could possibly just get away with being unisex for perhaps your less macho man! The packaging is simple and understated. It comes in a slightly opaque bottle with Lacoste written down the side and a chrome top with integral atomiser. It looks very smart and of high quality- something to be proud of on your dressing table. It is different from my usual perfumes but I really like it. You can also get shower gel or mousse to match, spray or roll-on deodorant, which I found very effective, and a very nice body lotion. I took a selection of perfumes to the Bristol meet last weekend for my chums to sample and KarenUK was especially taken with this one. So you get two recommendations for the price of one! I bought mine from the Perfume Shop, but having looked around have found very little variation in price. This is possibly one of the best value perfumes I have ever bought. It is definitely worth trying! I have had a few posit
                  ive comments on it, even if somebody else didn't notice it wasa diferent from usual!

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                    11.01.2003 04:45
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                    Periodically I have a small job, which necessitates staying overnight in South Devon. I am fortunate that I have my overnight accomodation paid for. I don't know about you, but if I am away for the odd night, I tend to plump for the local Travelodge, or similar! I had not done the job for quite a long time, and in the meantime became involved with my significant other who, coincidentally, lives in Devon, quite near Dartington, where I was working. As I get an allowance for the hotel, it seemed sensible to use it. Now, whilst there is nothing wrong with the Travelodge, it is not the ideal place for a romantic tryst. So, thanks to the wonders of the world wide web, I set off to find somewhere a little bit nicer, but without being stupidly expensive. I was very pleasantly surprised to find the Sea Trout Inn at Staverton. Do excuse me, whilst I wax lyrical about this marvellous and not outrageously priced, little hostelry! The Sea Trout Inn is a small inn, comprising accomodation, restaurants , lovely gardens and bars. It is in the Dart Valley, only moments walk from the river Dart, and is in a peaceful and rural location. It is an olde worlde pub, white, low ceilinged with beams. On arriving there is a spacious car park in which you can unload and safely leave your car without too many worries, unlike the Travelodge! The Inn has 10 bedrooms, a mixture of doubles and singles. They also have a special double bedroom with a four poster bed with French windows opening onto the garden. The rooms are homely and designed in a cottage style. It is all a little bit chintzy, but I thought that was in keeping with the age of the place, and was rather nice. Each room is en-suite and immaculately clean. They have armchairs, dressing tables and plenty of storage space in the wardrobes. There are also tea and coffee making facilities, a colour television and direct dial telephones in every room. We had a
                    very pleasant, ordinary room overlooking the garden. We were provided with an inordinate quantity of towels and the usual smelly bathroom bits and bobs. These were particularly nice, as they were in rather sweet little plastic bottles rather than those horrid sachets, which I have such difficulty opening! Has anyone noticed how foul shampoo tastes when you inadvertently bite off too large a segment and get a mouthful?! The room had a peaceful atmosphere and felt very homely. We immediately felt at ease with our surroundings. In the room, had we needed them, were many leaflets with information on things to do locally, and nice walks etc. When we arrived at the hotel we were immediately greeted at reception, by a very pleasant and polite young lady who checked us in. I was impressed that other than the usual offer of morning newspapers we were given fresh milk for our room. This was much nicer than having homogenised milk in our tea, not that we had much as it happened! We had booked a table for dinner, although we could have opted for a snack at the bar. There are two parts to the restaurant, one is an airy conservatory and the other a slightly more formal affair, with starched white linen, sparkling glass and silver cutlery. We opted for the formal area. I thought to myself that it would probably go way over my expenses budget!! It didn't! The menu was varied, and featured a lot of local produce. The Sea Trout Inn prides itself on using locally farmed poultry, sausages and bacon. It even uses some local cheeses and as you would expect, the ubiquitous Devon clotted cream. We both chose scampi and had very large glasses of an exceedingly tasty and aromatic red wine. We finished off with coffee. The meal was superb and cost us £20 including the drinks. The portions were very generous, too. The restaurant was lovely. There were many paintings on the wall, which John was itching to go and look at, but there w
                    ere people eating in front of most of them, so he couldn't. Don't you think that is inconsiderate of them?! Some of the paintings were by local artists, some of Dartmoor and some of animals, especially fish. There were also some stuffed fish in cases around the place. It seemed that at least some of the paintings were for sale, but as I said, we couldn't really get a close look. The restaurant is open on Monday to Saturday evenings, and for lunch on Sundays. There is a choice of a la carte or two or three course set meals. Vegetarians are well provided for, with some nice choices and a bit of variety. Dogs are allowed to stay with you in the hotel, but they are not allowed, understandably, in the restaurant. The hotel is at pains to point out that if your canine creates chaos, you pick up the bill! The prices are not at all bad. A double room will cost you £32-37 per person per night bed and breakfast, depending on the season. If you want the four poster you have to pay a supplement of £4. Well that isn't going to break the bank! A single room is £45-49.50 pp pn b&b, according to the season. There is a discount for short stays and a special weekly rate and children sharing their parents room cost £10. They are not too keen to book single Saturdays, although we managed to get one by booking at short notice. The reasoning behind this is that they get mostly long weekend bookings. I suppose you can see why they are not so keen to tie up the middle night! We will try booking late next time again and hope for the best. If it doesn't work I suppose it will be back to the Travelodge! If you are interested in dinner, bed and breakfast, you can book at their special rate, provided that you stay for a minimum of two nights. The cost is £45-52 for a double room, there again, per person per night. The bar was also very good, it had a roaring log fire and an extremely fine
                    cellar of real ales, if that is your thing. It is certainly mine! After we had eaten we went for a moonlit stroll - romantic, or what? It was as well the night was clear, as there is no lighting, as you would expect in a little hamlet. It was peaceful with hardly any cars, so that we could safely swagger all over the road and took great delight in doing so whilst gazing skywards at the stars. I am not saying what happened next on the grounds that I might incriminate myself! Suffice to say, we spent a very comfortable night. It was nice to have armchairs in the room, so that we could sit and chat for a while. You aren't getting any more than that! Breakfast was a wonderful affair, there was a choice of full English, continental breakfast, kippers, ham and cheese, and toast all made from local organic produce, as before. It even told you in the menu from which farm you could purchase their magnificent sausages. Before your cooked breakfast there is a choice of fresh fruit salad and cereals with orange juice. You can have unlimited tea and coffee. I thoroughly enjoyed breakfast, it was a very civilised affair. The inn is set in lovely countryside, with super walks. If you are into trains, there is an old steam train line very close by, with all the old carriages in a siding, which you can look at. Staverton also has an old church which is very attractive. We really enjoyed our walk and the peaceful ambience of the place. It was wonderful for recharging the batteries. We both adored the place and had a wonderful stay there. Staverton is close to Dartington and Totnes, and can easily be accessed from the A38 Devon Expressway, from where it is signposted. If you want to combine it with a bit of shopping, Plymouth anmd Exeter are both about half an hour away. I would thoroughly recommend this hotel for a night away or romantic weekend. Our total bill for one nights dinner, bed and breakfast, all drinks and a
                    moring paper w as £90. For a slightly more special night away we thought it was good value for money. After all, this was a quality inn, not a mass produced roadside motel! Don't just trust our recommendation, though! You will find that the Sea Trout Inn is Egon Ronay recommended and it is also in the Good Pub Guide. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed. We can't wait for a replay!

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                      09.01.2003 05:44
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                      Most of us stick to the same one or two favourite perfumes over a length of time, but it is always fun to go to the shop and go mad with the testers! When I was younger I had a tendency to wear quite heavy scents, but as I have got older my tastes have changed rather. I must admit, that I do have a weakness for perfume! I generally have five or six bottles on the go at any one time. Well, it would be very boring to always smell the same. I love the smell of bacon,but I wouldn't want to smell it all day, every day! I first encountered Kenzo Flower a year ago, when my daughter Laura bought me a bottle for my birthday.It very soon became a firm favourite, and I am now rapidly using up my third bottle! The first thing I noticed, on ripping off the wrapping paper, was the very beautiful packaging. It is a long, thin white box, with a satinised finish. On the box is a beautiful red poppy in various stages of development. It is very simple, stylish yet stunning. I immediately knew that this was a quality product! Inside the box was a rather unusual bottle. It is see through glass, with a green poppy stem painted up the side. The lid is a double layer of plastic-like material on which is painted the head of another red poppy. if you line up the bottle and lid properly it forms a complete flower. I was immediately struck by the simplistic and elegant design. It is beautiful. My eye was then drawn to the shape of the bottle.It is tall and thin with a slight curvature. It is meant to symbolise a poppy blowing in the wind. It is extremely beautiful and adorns my dressing table with consummate grace! I am very proud of it. Obviously, with any perfume, the packaging is worthless if the smell doesn't match up! There was no disappointment with "Flower". I was worried that it might be a bit too girly, but was very pleasantly surprised. This is one of those aromas which is instantly recognisable
                      once you know it. It is a light scent, with wild hawthorn, bulgarian rose, parma violet, cassia hedone, white musk and vanilla. Often perfumes with musk in are very overpowering. Not so this one! It has a unique bouquet which is sensual without being overtly sexual! Flower was launched in time for Valentines day 2000. It is quite a romantic scent and it's sensuality is present, if understated. I find this rather a wonderful perfume, delicate and yet with a special strength at the same time! It is supposed to portray a flower in the city, according to the Kenzo website, showing off the delicacy of the poppy in the grim urban surroundings. I think that they brought this off rather well. Once you have had a whiff of this scent, you will not forget it. It is absolutely gorgeous, feminine without cloying, or being too "in your face". It is amaxing how it can seem pure and innocent and yet sensual at the same time. It is a perfume of many moods! Although it is delicate it isn't airy fairy. I think it has an underlying sophistication and elegance, not like me, but I like to wear it anyway! The balance is just right and this perfume is suitable for daytime or a night out. Flower comes in Eau de Parfum, which makes it last longer on your skin. My other half would tell you, it clings for quite a while-( No, he doesn't wear it!) You can buy Flower in 100ml, 50ml or 30ml sizes. The prices vary a bit: Scentrepoint.co.uk 30mls- £ 22 50 mls-£ 35 perfumesdirect.net 30mls- £ 25 50 mls-£ 37 The prices in the high street are usually pretty similar. I will let you into a little secret: I bought my last bottle on Ebay for £15 for 30mls. It is worth checking Ebay for perfume as there is usually a wide range, where people are selling off unwanted gifts! These prices might seem quite expensive, but remember, this is not Eau de Cologne, but Eau de Parfum. I think
                      it is excellent value, and whenever I wear it someone comments on it! As always, if you can afford it, it is a good idea to layer your scent, and you can get deodorant, body lotion and shower gel to match! I would definitely suggest that you have a spray of Kenzo Flower. It isn't one I would have considered buying had it not been a present. Now it is one of my all time favourites!

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                      • More +
                        28.12.2002 20:37
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                        A year ago, I was entirely resigned to my fate as a middle aged celibate matriarch of a one parent family, consisting of four mostly grown up children and three young grand-children.I would have told you I was perfectly happy as I was, and having had one divorce followed by several years of the live-in relationship from hell I was never going near men again. No thank you, not for anything! I had had six years on my own and life was trotting along fairly comfortably. The only slight blip was that my ex- partner would not entirely let go, and had a habit of turning up en-famille and expected to carry on as though nothing had happened for the few hours he could be bothered to show up! A year ago, almost to the day, life changed. After a disastrous Christmas day I kicked my ex into touch ( not literally, of course!) and have refused him entry to the house ever since. He has at last, got the message. You may be wondering what all this has to do with internet relationships? Hang on in there and all will be revealed! Had you told me a year ago that I would be in another relationship I would have roared with laughter and said you were off your head. No men for me, no Siree, far too dangerous! Had you then said it would be an internet relationship I would have called up the men in white coats. I do not go into chatrooms and after a couple of IM's which began to get out of hand, I set my messengers to only accept IM's from people I knew. I have extreme reservations about talking to complete strangers on the net and even more about going to meet them. That being said, my two elder daughters, both of whom write here spasmodically, both met their chaps from random IM'ing! They both seem happy with it, but it still isn't for me. My other half and I had originally decided that we were not going to blast our story in a Mills and Boone Style all across the site.Don?t get too excited, you are still not getting Mills
                        and Boone, it really isnt our style ( not in public anyway!). However, I had a fascinating four way chat with some on site friends the other night which made me change my mind. I did clear this with the significant other first, though! The girls and I were discussing the differences between ' opinionating relationships' and ones where you meet someone at random from the net. It was very interesting, and we were all agreed that there is a very big difference. In case there are others of you considering meeting another writer and are uncertain I hope this might help you think it through. The girls and I all agreed that opinion site relationships grow much faster than ones when you meet normally. I was not the only one in the conversation to either be in or have had a relationship with someone from the site. In fact, if you look around the site, it is quite amazing how many couples have got together courtesy of Dooyoo or Ciao, and most seem to be very successful. There are probably several more, about which we don't know, too! I will tell you a bit about us before going on to talk to you a bit more about online dating in general. Most of our online friends have known we have been an item for some time. To begin with we kept it fairly quiet until we were certain where we were with it all. As our friends now know we are happy enough to be more open with it. Both of us have written on both sites for a long time. We regularly commented on each others opinions and it was apparent we had some very similar interests and views. For about eight months we avidly read the others opinions and ,with the advent of Tooyoo, we chatted more through there. We grew to be very firm friends over the period of time and eventually started e-mailing each other. I don't think that at the time either of us had any idea of anything other than being friends and chewing the cud on matters of mutual interest. In the su
                        mmer we had the opportunity to meet as I was going for a mini break with my daughter and would be staying very close to his house. We decided that we would meet for an afternoon. I must admit I did have a slight apprehension, which I talked through with a mutual opinionating friend. He was wonderful ( thanks mate, I owe you a big drink next time I see you!) and put everything into perspective, as only real friends can. He had already met John, so knew he wasn't an axe wielding psychopath! Having had my mind put at rest I had no further doubts as to the wisdom of what I was doing. Did bells ring and lightening strike immediately when we met? No!! We were both on our very best behaviour, and if honest, a bit nervous! My daughter did say later, that she had spotted signs, but we didn't!! We knew we would get on as we had so much in common, but as I said neither of us were looking for anything else. We got on like a house on fire and realised we would probably always be friends. My daughter was also very taken with him as a person. Believe me, she doesn't suffer fools gladly! We spent a lovely couple of hours together and enjoyed each others'company. There was so much to talk about, and as is my habit when nervous, I talked too much! I came back to Hampshire feeling rather quiet. I am not normally known for being quiet, but something was niggling at me. I didn't know what. I didn't realise for a couple of days quite how churned up I was. I felt totally confused. About what, I did not know! We continued to e-mail and Tooyoo each other for a couple of days, and then it hit us both at the same time roughly, that we had fallen for each other quite hugely. The speed of the thing shell-shocked us both. As each week passed the feelings just grew and grew. We decided it must be because we already knew all about each other. We knew the rotten stuff about each other from our ops, of any difficult times we ha
                        d previously and had gone into the relationship with no nasty secrets lurking. If you are a regular reader of mine, you will know how incredibly important that was! I have many skeletons, but John took me on knowing about them, and accepting me as I was. There is no way that could happen with someone that you fell for first and learned about afterwards! My last relationship was like that, I fell for him big time, and then as I learned more about his skeletons and later again that he was mentally ill, it was almost too much to cope with. At least for John and I, we made the decision that we could cope with anything from each others' past before allowing ourselves to become deeply involved. It gives a feeling of enormous security, which I believe neither of us has experienced before. You get to know a lot about a person from their writing, don't you? We tried to slow it down, but love has its own agenda! We could not believe what was happening to us to start with! Eventually we just went with it and it found it's own level remarkably quickly and easily. The distance of 150 miles is a complete pain in the neck. We only get to see each other about once a month , which is really tough. This is something that a lot of opinionating relationships find. I can think of at least three where one party has upped sticks to go and be with the other one. There is a limit to how long you can sustain a relationship with IM, Tooyoo and e-mails! It does help a lot in between visits though! We made the decision a while ago that we wanted to be with each other, so I am moving to Devon in the summer. I have resigned my job from the end of the summer term and have to sell my house as well. It is a bit scary at times, not knowing if I can find as good a job in time, but whatever else, I know I am doing the right thing. I have never had any doubts, and if necessary I can do a different job for a while. The important thing for us, is
                        to be together. I never in my wildest dreams thought I could have this much in common with someone else, or be this happy. We are remarkably well suited. It will be difficult being away from my family, but I will just have to make a big effort to come up and see them regularly. Perhaps now it is time for me to have a life. God knows I haven't had much of one up to now! So, if you see a pair of middle-aged starry eyed twits behaving like a couple of teenagers, then it's probably us! If you are considering meeting anyone from the Internet it is advisable to be careful, even if you think you know them really well from IM's or opinions, if they are a writer. We met at John's house. I had my daughter and his Mother was there, although I don't think he ever considered that I might be a homicidal maniac! ( now, where was that axe?) Don't go by yourself the first time, and don't have too high expectations! It is better to go with minimum expectations and you are less likely to be disappointed, or worse still, hurt. Meeting someone in person is very different. We knew each other extremely well, and had seen photos, albeit not very good ones! Nonetheless, there may have been no chemistry, in which case John and I would be best friends rather than a couple. We would have been very happy with that, too. As I said, we were not looking for anything, so it took us both by surprise! We still pinch ourselves sometimes! The difference between meeting an opinionater as opposed to someone from the net at random is that you have read the ops. The opinions are not put there to make friends or catch a partner. They are not there to impress you as perhaps things you might be told on IM or in a chatroom might be. I would probably be more wary with someone I had met at random as you really know nothing about them.You can see photos, but are you sure it is of the person? There are many scary sto
                        ries of people going half way round the world to marry internet partners they have never seen other than on photos. Some have discovered there mate is of the wrong gender or possibly the wrong age by several decades! You really have to be very careful indeed! People can say what they like on the net, you do not necessarily get the person you think they are, when you get to know them. I don't think this should necessarily stop you, as I know some very successful relationships started this way, you should just exercise extreme caution to protect both your physical and emotional well-being. There is one advantage that strikes me about meeting someone who has IM'd you at random: you may not have the demographic problems. People tend to IM people within their own locality. This has got to be easier. We try very hard not to let the distance get to us, but if I were not moving, and we could see an end to it, I think it would have put a huge strain on our relationship. There are statistics that show that many internet marriages are more successful than ones where the couple met in the normal way. The thinking is that it is because mostly people already know each other well before meeting, and so all the dross is got out of the way first. You do hear the odd horror story, but there are many more very successful ones with happy endings. We feel that whatever the future of Dooyoo, we are eternally grateful to it, as without Dooyoo there we would be no "us". So thanks Dooyoo! If you are considering meeting someone from the site, why not give it a go? If you can't cope with a long distance relationship or aren't prepared for one of you to move if it comes to it, than don't fall for someone miles away! There are quite a lot of us here who would tell you that meeting their opinionating partner is the best thing they ever did! Just take care at first and you should be fine! Good luck!

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                        • Violas / Archive Music / 1 Reading / 27 Ratings
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                          22.12.2002 04:50
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                          The viola is a much under rated and maligned instrument, the butt of many jokes. Joke 1: How do you stop your violin from getting stolen? Put it in a viola case! Seriously, though, what is a viola? Firstly it is pronounced Veeola, nothing irritates me more than the incorrect pronunciation " vyola". It is a relative of the violin, being held on the shoulder in the same way. It is approximately two inches longer and wider, although this can vary a bit. Whereas violins come in fractional sizes, ie 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 4/4( and some really tiny ones- my daughter started on a 32nd size!) the viola comes in inch measurements, the smallest is usually about fifteen inches and they go up to about eighteen inches long. Generally this means that you have to be fairly long in the arm to play it. Years ago people always learned the violin first and then swopped over to the viola. It is also fair to say that the less bright were encouraged to play the viola! What are the merits of the viola? It has a lovely, deep and sonorous sound. It is pitched a fifth lower than the violin and this gives it it's own rich tone. It is roughly equivalent to the alto in choir.It is much beefier than the violin and has real guts. JOKE 2: A violinist noticed at the end of each rehearsal break, one of the violists would look at the inside flap of his jacket before he sat down to resume rehearsal. This continued for several decades, and the violinist became quite curious about it. One day, during hot weather, the violist took off his jacket and went off on break. The violinist waited until everyone was off the platform, looked around, and sneaked over to the jacket. He pulled back the flap and saw a little note pinned on the inside. It read: ``viola left hand, bow right.'' All musicians thoroughly enjoy teasing viola players, it goes with the territory, and violists generally tak
                          e it in good part. The viola is used in most string combinations and is an integral part of a string quartet and an orchestra. Many orchestral viola parts are not particularly inspiring to play,which is probably why you get the "thick" viola player jokes, but they are very important texturally. Bach preferred to play the viola as he liked being in the middle of the harmony,according to his son CPE Bach. It was not always such an insignificant instrument. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries it was as important in an orchestra as the violins are today, but as time went on the emphasis shifted away from the poor viola. JOKE 3: How do you get 2 viola players to play in tune? Shoot one of them! One drawback to playing the viola is that it doesn't have the breadth of repertoire of the violin and cello. The viola repertoire is undoubtedly rather limited, but during the twentieth century many composers wrote some magnificent pieces especially to exploit the wonderful timbre of the instrument. William Walton wrote a viola concerto which is often performed and really gives the instrument a thorough workout! Another thing to consider is that viola recitals are relatively rare compared to violin concerts so that an audience will often come fresh to the repertoire. As the instrument is more uncommon on the solo concert platform there is easily enough repertoire to last a lifetime! Violists are often in short supply and we now encourage quite young children to take it up. This might seem impossible because of the size, but it is perfectly possible to string a full sized violin as a viola. In starting youngsters off on the viola as a legitimate instrument in it's own right the stigma will eventually disappear completely! Technically it is obviously similar to the violin, although the bow is slightly shorter and much heavier which slightly affects the bow techniqu
                          e. It is customary also to have a slightly wider and slower vibrato to show off the deeper pitch. The strings are also thicker, so it takes more effort to get them resonating. Like the violin the strings may be steel, covered gut or aluminium covered nylon composite. Violas range in price from about £200 for a beginners instrument up to many thousands of pounds. They rarely reach the giddy prices of a violin, however! JOKE 4: Why do violists panic when they see the Kama Sutra? Ooh! All those positions! The viola has many fans and some surprising players. I bet you didn't know that Jimmy Hendrix was a keen viola player? I do play the viola, but due to my small stature I find it a big strain on my back, so these days I concentrate on the violin. I do have three viola playing daughters though! In the right hands the viola is a wonderful instrument which really doesn't deserve the mean jokes. If you get the chance to hear one played properly, do take it, you will be glad that you did!

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                          • Gillette Venus / Shaving & Grooming / 0 Readings / 46 Ratings
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                            21.11.2002 04:51
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                            I bet most of us remember our first experience of hair removal quite clearly. I wonder how many of us had our first illicit affair with our father's precious razor? I am talking about the ladies here, chaps! I distictly remember, aged about 12, surveying the downy fair hairs on my legs and thinking I wonder what shaving feels like? I hid myself in the bathroom whilst my parents were out, and had great fun with my Dad's razor. I lived to regret it as I seemed to make myself a job for life, as the fair downy hair was replaced by a veritable forest of dark, coarse twigs! Oh dear! A lifetime of trying assorted hair removal techniques followed, as did the desire to remove hair from other areas of the body. I gave up on depilatory creams as I couldn't bear the burning of my poor delicate skin. I have an electric epilator which pulls hair out by the roots. Super for the legs, but oh boy, have you ever used one of these on your bikini line? Never, ever again! It brought tears to my eyes and was equally agonising on the underarm pits. Sugaring has never appealed and waxing hurts! That leaves shaving. Like a lot of women I returned to the razor some years ago. I didn't like the inevitable nicks and cuts, but it seemed to be the price we had to pay for smooth shins! Then a couple of years ago I discovered the Gillette Venus. This has to be the best razor I have ever used.There are 4 females in my house, and we each have one and refuse to be parted from them. The Venus comes in one of those difficult to open solid plastic bubbles. You are at far more risk of injury from opening the wretched thing than your pins will ever be from the razor! In desperation I attacked our latest one with the scissors in a stabbing motion and then peeled back the hard plastic, cutting myself as I did so. This is my only complaint. Once you access the razor it is a very different story. The Venus comes in two colours, a transl
                            ucent pale blue or a see through pearlised shade. In the pack you will find your razor, a wall mountable holder and a couple of spare blades. The razor itself looks very sleek. It has a long, ergonomic handle with a finger rest on the top. Personally my shaving technique doesn't suit the finger rest, but I am sure it might be helpful for some. It works on the three blade system and gives the closest shave I have ever had. Each blade is positioned at different heights in order to cut at different levels along the hair shaft. It certainly cuts through the hairs like a knife through butter. I have never been nicked or cut since I started using this excellent little toy. Gillette seem to have thought it out very carefully; there is a pivoting head so that it is easy to access the more awkward areas, such as knees and underarm pits and you don't get left with stragglers. I really cant bear it when you are out somewhere nice and you discover a stray hair poking out somewhere! I shave in the shower since my unpleasant experience of shaving my bikini line in the bath. There I was, in our very wide corner bath shaving my bikini line, one leg on each side of the bath, displaying everything and the window cleaners head appeared through the open window! Somehow this really put me off shaving in the bath! Gillette have made the handle of the Venus non-slip so that it is safe to use in the shower. It is also slightly ridged to assist grip. The blades are easy to change and just clip in and out. Gillette call it " single point docking"- sounds like a space shuttle, doesn't it! On the blade is a blue stripe which fades as the blades lose their efficacy. Replacement blades are relatively easy to obtain in any supermarket or chemist, but they don't come cheap! A pack of four averages at £5.99. They last a reasonable time on legs and underarms, but if you shave your bikini line, or even remove all your pube
                            s you will find it blunts very quickly indeed. The razor feels comfortable in use. It doesn't have the dragging, scratchy sensation of some cheaper models. If you use a decent shaving gel the result will be even better. Gillette recommend their own make ( well they would, wouldn't they!), Gillette Satin Care. I have tried it and it really gives a good result and leaves your skin like silk. I can't bear stubbly skin, and a stubbly bikini line is a real no-no! Oh dear! The Venus is nice and easy to clean and you are not left with a foul razor head full of matted hair. Eughhh! You are provided with a wallmountable bracket, in which to store your razor. The suction pad is pretty useless, so mine attaches to a hook and this seems to work quite well. It also has a place to store the spare blades. The Gillette Venus retails at £5.99 in most shops although you can sometimes pick them up cheaper on special offer. There is even a website if you are feeling bored: www.gillettevenus.com/home.asp Here you can waste a bit of time taking their beauty IQ quiz and expunging several myths about hair removal.You can also play a game which reveals your Goddess name. Honestly, who thinks up this rubbish?! The website also tells you all about the razor- but you don't need to know now, do you? I just told you!! I cannot recommend this razor highly enough. I never use anything else now, and there are very many converts out there who say the same.

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                            • Your Top 10 / Discussion / 2 Readings / 37 Ratings
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                              15.11.2002 08:53
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                              Sorry, this isn't quite the right place, but everyone else is at it!! It is supposed to be The Ten Things I cannot Live Without: I do find these top ten lists fascinating. I have thought about writing this one for a little while, but to be quite honest I could not even start to think of ten things I couldn't really live without! Perhaps I am being pedantic, but for me the only things you really can't live without are food, water and shelter. My life has not always been easy and I learned a long time ago that you can live without most things. It isn't pleasant, but it can be done! So, I propose to tackle this opinion from a slightly different perspective: "The 10 things I would really prefer not to live without!"( but know that I would cope with if push came to shove). Honestly, perhaps I have got hardened in my old age! 1.MY CHILDREN/FAMILY My children never fail to amaze me. I have four of them aged between 23 and 15. I started having them reasonably young and to some extent we have grown up together. They are all very different in many ways, but my daughters and I all share a love of music, history, politics and books. I,in turn, inherited all those from my father. It is interesting how these things have come down through the generations! I have considered it a privilege to aid and abet my childrens journey through life.They are among my dearest friends and we do have great fun together sometimes. My fifteen year old is a bit of a Kevin, but she will come out the other side. I think most of us with fifteen year olds probably live with a Kevin. Harry Enfield was horribly accurate with his portrayal, in case any of you younger parents thought it was a pastiche! You have it all to come!! Oh, now she is following me round Chuckleweb. If she thinks I am moderating my behaviour to suit her, then she has another think coming!! When my ex and I split up I removed a
                              ll my rings ( he gave my engagement ring to his other woman- how's that for cheek!) but I wear one, it has five diamonds, one for each of my children, each of them a diamond in their own right. My fifth was stillborn, but I still feel the need to acknowledge his existence, rightly or wrongly. Sentimental old fool, my kids call me! I also have three grandchildren aged 4, eighteen months and six months.They also bring enormous pleasure and value to my life. They belong to two of my children, who I am sure will not mind me telling you that I was not very impressed when they both ( at the age of 18) told me they were expecting. I was worried for their shattered futures and the wellbeing of themselves and their babies, obviously. When my son told me he was expecting and had only known the girl for six weeks you can imagine my abject horror. After the initial shock I then realised that I felt far too young to be a grandparent. Actually, that is a good thing, I now realise, as I can rough and tumble with the boys as much as required. I am very proud of how my son and daughter have coped with early parenthood. They have both made a great job of it so far, so perhaps they learned something after all! I also am very attached to my five year old niece. Lara is my sister's only child born after very many years of trying. It was managed naturally in the end, although I was lined up to be an egg donor just in case. I was so relieved when I didn't have to do it! I would have done, of course, had it been required ,as it would have eased my sisters' pain. Lara is only 10 months older than my elder grandchild and so we have an interesting generational split. She was the niece I never thought I would have, and we all spoil her to pieces - intelligent, funny and beautiful and an integral part of my family. I think families are a bit of a must-have really. 2. SINGING For my sins, I am a pro
                              fessional singer, violinist and pianist. I have sung all my life, wherever I might be I am singing along to myself on a regular basis! I sing all around school and drive the others potty. It is not uncommon to here a cry of " Do shut up Kim, do you always have to be so b****y happy". Our head of history is rather a chum. He is also an opera buff. He always comes across the lawn singing his conversation to me. Most of our converstaions are sung. We get very funny looks sometimes!! Everyone can sing, it doesn't matter what it sounds like, most people enjoy singing if only in the shower! It is also very good for your health. In order to sing well you have to learn diaphragmatic breathing. This fills the bottom third of your lungs which rarely get used in everyday life, or non singers. Good breathing can be a real pick me up as it really oxygenates your blood. There are other fringe benefits too; to sing properly you have to use your pelvic floor and it has to become very strong.Wonderful for the sex life, girls, or stress incontinence! For me singing really lifts the spirits. One of my great pleasures used to be singing in the garden in the rain, in bare feet on the grass! No, I would not be too happy to live without my singing! 3.MY OTHER HALF I was not entirely surprised to discover that lots of people had included this one in their selection! So, what is so special about mine? Lots of things but some are not suitable to write here!! He is quite possibly the most supportive person I have ever met.He always knows exactly the right thing to say and accepts me for who I am. He never judges or criticizes and always listens without complaining.He understands my painful past and is always kind and understanding.Above all, he has done wonders to make me feel better about myself.What more could anybody ask? Unfortunately it isn't easy for us to see each other very often at the moment, but he com
                              pensates for this by staying in touch daily. This helps a great deal, for both of us,I think. We have so much in common that it is like being two sides of the same coin. It can seem quite uncanny sometimes.It is wonderful to share so much and I just enjoy being in his company more than I can possibly say. Not only is he an utterly gorgeous person, but very funny and intelligent, too. Sometimes I get an attack of "flap-itis" and spend a few hours panicking about silly things. He is very kind and eminently sensible, and generally sorts me out with a few well chosen sensible words that do the trick.I am sure that he must sometimes want to get annoyed about it, but if he does he never shows it! This man has the patience of a saint, I tell you! I cannot remember ever feeling so comfortable with another person. We can, and do, discuss anything. I am utterly grateful that he is part of my life as he has enriched it more than I would have ever believed possible.Possibly the most important thing is that he has taught me to trust again. I had vowed I never would! It all goes to show that sometimes it is worth taking a risk! I am very, very lucky. 4. BOOKS I have a lifelong love of books. As a child every penny of my pocket money was saved to buy books. Every Friday my father took me to the library ( mum was never really a book person) and he and I would spend hours together, browsing, and he would show me interesting things in reference books. I used to love those Friday evenings. I always had my nose in a book, and still do, pretty much. There is so much that reading a book can do for you, it can educate, titillate,thrill, allow you to escape, fantasise and so much more besides. I generally have two or three on the go at a time. I usually have a trashy novel for pick up put down reading, a more meaty epistle, and a piece of non fiction. That satisfies all my moods. I draw the line at Mills and Boo
                              ne ,though! Eughhh!! I am a quick reader and I can't put books down. I become totally engrossed and lose all concept of time. For that reason I am very careful when I pick up my non fiction or serious book as they totally envelope me. I use the trashy fiction to use as a quick time filler. They are rarely particularly absorbing! It is a pleasant enough way of passing the time, though. I encouraged my children to have a love for books from a very young age. They were all fluent readers by four, reading Roald Dahl and the like before starting school.The infant school thought I had pushed them into it, but all four yearned for books before they could walk. My elder two daughters and I are often found loading up with books in Hammicks or Waterstones when they have the three for two offers running. We have now run out of space to put any more bookcases and the existing ones are full to bursting! Last summer we bought fifteen novels and have nowhere left to put them! I do not believe a home is complete without books. 5. MY ANIMALS I realise that not everyone is into pets, but mine mean an awful lot to me. I have two cats, nine rabbits and a tame shrew. I like the independence of cats. They love you, but on their terms.Mine are both very friendly, but only when they want to be! I can relate to that- have you never had an afternoon when you just weren't in the mood to have your back stroked? Well, cats are just the same. I adore my cats, but my real p[assion are my bunnies! Sadly my four year old house rabbit died in June after a year of intensive nursing on my part. For most of the year he still had a sparkle in his eye, a quality of life and a strong will to live.He would bound up to me and leap onto my knee when I got home from work- he was my little friend. One day the light went out in his eyes and he refused to eat. I realised a one way trip to the vet was necessary. He didn't last until
                              the appointment,dying in my arms in our sitting room.I was heartbroken. I still have the other nine. This time last year I had 18 rabbits and the year before 26. I sold some of my babies and then we had an epidemic which wiped out quite a few. Because of that I have stopped breeding for the time being. No, not me myself, the rabbits!! I have heard it said that rabbits are boring animals with no personality. That is totally untrue. All mine have their little idiosyncracies and characters.If handled well from a young age they enjoy attention and will respond positively to a cuddle. I would certainly be very sad to be without mine! 6. CIAO/DOOYOO What ever did we all do before joining these communities? I enjoy both sites pretty equally, although I am very saddened by the debacle at Dooyoo vis a vis the arrival of Aurora. I hope it survives the mess, as I for one would be very sorry to see it fold. I have found opinionating to be an absorbing passion. It is interesting to get to know different writers and see their style blossom and develop. There are some really top notch writers on both sites who it is just a pleasure to read. I have even been known to use them to assist in making a major purchase, in particular the digital camera that I got my daughter Hannah for her birthday. It was extremely useful, and what the site is intended for. Amazing! I enjoy the community spirit on both sites and have met several people and made friends. I was especially pleased to be involved with the music for the Ciao wedding of the ANDREWSJK's. That the community spirit is strong is self evident if you visit Tooyoo or Chuckleweb. I hope both sites make it, I really do. 7. MY COMPUTER Without my computer I would not have the pleasure of the opinion sites, I would have difficulty communicating with friends, and I would not be able to do my administration for school. I often w
                              onder how we all managed before computers were commonplace in the home. I just don't have the time to be continually running to the post box to send letters. E-mail is a godsend when you have a frantic schedule. Most of my relaxation time is spent at the computer as by the time I finish work I am too tired and it is often too late to go out. It is a wonderful reference aid and educational tool. If all else fails, you can play cards on it, although my own preference is for backgammon! I could live without my computer, honestly I could, but..... 8. MY INTEGRITY You might think that this is a strange one! You cannot put a price on your integrity. I was close to losing mine some years ago when my ex pushed me to some pretty extreme limits. He has no scruples or integrity, so why should he care for somebody else's? Nobody is worth that. I always felt that I must escape whilst my integrity was still mostly intact.It took longer than I wanted, but I managed it and in doing so regained the integrity that I had lost. I would never risk it again, not for anyone! You know what they say, to thine own self be true. That is so important, I think. 9.MY VIOLIN/MUSIC IN GENERAL I am a violinist and that is the essence of my being. If I feel down in the dumps I can play for two or three hours and then feel wonderful. It is possible to lose yourself completely in what you are doing and lose all sense of time. It is a bit like reading in that respect. Sometimes I cannot tell where I end and the violin starts, especially if I play in bare feet with my eyes shut, a particularly favourite activity of mine! It is an intrisic part of my life, as is all music. There is music for all tastes, moods and occasions, and I can't think of anyone who doesn't listen to music at all. We have very eclectic tastes in this house, and if the windows are open you can hear anything from gr
                              and opera, through rock,Jamiroquai, Simon and Garfunkel,Pink Floyd, Queen, Abba- oh, and if my fifteen year old is here Eminem and Soggy Cookie! I wonder where we went wrong with her musical education? She is a superb violinist so should have more taste, but there you go. I have tried banning it, as I find it unsuitable for her age, but she just borrows it from other people. It is truly awful! I would be sad not to have music, but as I can hear entire symphonies in my head from memory, I could get by! 10. CORNWALL I am an un-ashamed Cornwall-o-holic. I need to go several times a year and get my fix, or I get very ratty. We had a family house in Cornwall until quite recently and could nip down for weekends as well as the longer holidays. I love the ruggedness of the North Coast, the violence of the sea and walking the coastal parth in and around Bedruthan Steps, (in between Padstow and Newquay). I particularly like walking, and pub walks in particular. Cornwall is superb for that. My favourite walking area is the Helford River. It is lush, green and full of wonderful wildlife. If I am feeling brave there is nothing like a dip in the Atlantic- can be bracing, though. I have always loved swimming in the sea- wonderful. I love the pace of life in Cornwall and the mild weather round Falmouth.There are so many things to do without needing to resort to touristy theme parks, which we did when the children were small. Now they appreciate the beauty and all the things you see if you slow down and walk! If I couldn't go again I would very sad indeed. There we go, I found ten in the end!

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                              • Sawdust / Discussion / 1 Reading / 27 Ratings
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                                09.11.2002 21:48
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                                I use sawdust a lot. I keep rabbits, so it goes with the territory. It is useful for soaking up urine but only covers up the pong if you go for a scented sawdust. I like lavender the best. Yesterday I had ready brek for breakfast- surely this is sawdust for human consumption? As an intrepid experimenter I made two bowls. One with real ready brek and one with sawdust. To look at them- no difference. Offering a spoonful of each to my daughter asking her to tell me the difference. The answer- not much,one is a bit chewier. I tasted both- yes, sawdust porridge was vaguely edible. Think of the possibilities, sawdust crumble topping, sawdust muesli, cakes- the possibilities are endless! Next time you run out of food just pop to the shed! Oh, does any one have any good tips for getting the solid vacuum packed stuff out of the pack easily?!

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                                • L'Oreal Excellence / Hair Care / 4 Readings / 31 Ratings
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                                  03.11.2002 14:59
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                                  Those of you that read my Lumia hair dye op a few weeks ago will undoubtedly remember that I had a fairly grim hair disaster a little while ago. The Lumia failed to rectify my accidental white hair, and I found myself with yellowy, white hair with ginger stripes over the top! Honestly folks,it was a mess! It was also beginning to break and fall out due to three lots of dye in as many days. I had decided to leave it for a few weeks to gain some strength before attempting to rectify the situation. However, last week I was on holiday in Cornwall. The weather was terrible and meant that we were confined to barracks, or in this case a caravan, for a couple of days. I was putting my face on one wet morning when I noticed, to my horror, dark roots. So there we had it, a dark parting with white hair and yellow and ginger stripes! Oh dear! My other half was coming to see me the following day after nine weeks apart. There was no way I was prepared to leave my hair in that state for him to see. Don't get me wrong, he knew all about it , and is a very understanding sort, but a girl has her pride! Off to Asda I trekked with the family, in keen pursuit of a decent hair colourant. My son in law said I was mad, it would all fall out! I was pretty sure it wouldn't ( she said optimistically!). Now, in my hair dying experience I must have tried every brand known to man. I decided to go for a tried and trusted make, L'Oreal Excellence Creme. Guaranteed to cover grey, it said.I realise that my hair isn't grey, (although it might be under the years of dye) but it was fairly white, so I was quietly confident that it would do the trick. There was a vast array of colours from which to choose. Normally I have it quite blonde, but to cover up the four colours I was now sporting would probably need something a little darker! I went for a shade called lightest brown and decided that I would not leave it on the full length of my hai
                                  r for very long as I didn't want it to go too dark. This product had it's work cut out. It had to significantally cover the dark roots and yet give even coverage to the rest of my hair which looked like a snowstorm liberally sprinkled with cinnamon! It reminded me of the frothy top of a cappucino!! Anyway, I wasn't convinced it would work.... Have you ever tried dying your hair in a caravan? It is an experience not to miss! It started off easily enough- open the box and get out all the equipment. The flimsy gloves, welded to the the instructions, the instruction sheet itself, a sachet of after colour conditioner and the pieces de resistance, the bottle of developer and tube of colour. Firstly don the gloves and squeeze the contents of the tube into the bottle. Then give it a good shake, and it must be a good hard shake to ensure the contents are thoroughly mixed. When you have done that, snap the plastic nipple off the top of the nozzle. This product is designed to be used on dry, unwashed hair. It does not take as well if your hair is too clean! This is when my first problem arose- all my clothes protectors and dying towels were at home. I found a manky old towel which I didn't mind ruining as it was a bit threadbare. Other than that I would have to risk doing it topless. I informed son-in-law that he was not allowed to get up until I had finished. It isn't often I make my family stay in bed! The colour went on very easily and smoothly. I put it on the roots for 10 minutes first as this area was so much darker than the rest of my head. It smelt a bit of ammonia, but nothing eye watering about it! It is a non-drip cream formulation and to my delight did not sting at all. This made me a bit happier as it was presumably kinder to my hair than some other makes I have recently used. After 10 minutes I combed it all the way through. There was plenty for my hair, and it is quite lo
                                  ng- half way down my back if I stretch out the curls. With some makes I need to use two boxes. There was ample here even though I daubed it on quite generously! It said to leave it for twenty to thirty minutes, and I plumped for twenty five. I could see by then that it was begginning to take. Now to wash it off! At home I wash the dye off over the bath. There was no bath in the caravan and in the shower there was no room to swing a cat. I tried taking the shower from the holster, but the hose was very short. So, I had to become a contortionist! Somehow I managed to kneel on the floor and just twizzle my arm up high enough to grab the shower. I am quite short you see, and gorilla arms I have not! I managed, miraculously to keep my balance in an undignified upside down pose. The problem was, that you have to rinse it out until the water runs clear, having lathered it up nicely first. The lathering bit went swimmingly, but how can you tell it is running clear when you are suspended semi upside down, half in and half out of a shower cubicle?! I did not particularly want an eye full of dye! If I didn't have quite bad eczema I would have taken my chance and just got in the shower properly, but did not think ammonia would do my poor skin any good at all! Anyway, some ten minutes later, having virtually wrenched my right arm from it's socket the deed was done. All that was left was to use the after colour conditioner, provided in the box. This was my only gripe- there was nowhere near enough conditioner for my hair. It is a pity as usually the after dye conditioner leaves your hair in fabulous condition. I got around the problem by mixing it with my Umberto Giannini Curl Friends Conditioner. I decided to wrap my head in a carrier bag and leave the conditioner on for 10 minutes. It recommends three, but my poor hair has been over processed beyond the call of duty recently and needs all the help it can get! An hour or
                                  so later, when my hair was dry, I was able to survey my handywork.It was fine, I had been worried that it would be too dark, but it was still roughly the dark blonde I favour. This product certainly cuts the mustard! A miracle had occurred.It had covered the roots and done a reasonable job of levelling out the rest. I was very pleasantly surprised, and all for a mere £ 4.79.It also did no further damage to my already traumatised barnet! It must have worked as other half did not seem at all shocked, and I think he might have been had he seen it the day before!! I will certainly stick to this one for the forseeable future, but it will be a long time before I ever do it in a caravan again!

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