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I didn’t know it when I woke up that morning, but July 13th 2000 was to prove a momentous date in my life. It was the day when I found dooyoo, and welcomed all that is dooyoo into my life. I wasn’t looking for it, but somehow stumbled across the site, investigated and pondered for a while. I hadn’t really written anything for years, so although English was always my best and favourite subject at school the prospect of writing for the public to read was daunting. But having read some of the opinions that were already on the site I felt I should give it a go – after all, dooyoo is all about personal opinions, and reviewing what you know about – I could do that! So I dipped my toe in the water, wrote a few opinions, and realised that people actually did read them. This was a revelation to me – I could write about anything and everything, get feedback on my writing, and get paid for it! I also loved the fact that I could be part of the community by reading, rating and commenting on other people’s opinions. At first I visited dooyoo every day or two, but soon my visits became more frequent. I’d log in to the site quickly before work, and in my lunch hour as well. And much of my spare time in the evenings and on my days off was taken up with dooyoo. With unlimited internet access, I could take full advantage of dooyoo, and I did just that. I tried to spread the word about dooyoo at work, and to my friends, but they didn’t take much notice. They just didn’t UNDERSTAND. Oh well, I figured it was their loss. I couldn’t force them into dooyoo if they weren’t interested, they had to do it for themselves, like I had. I managed to convert my mum though, but her computer doesn’t have net access, so she had to use mine – and that meant she didn’t have much time available, because I was always online myself! I spend anything up to 12 hour
s a day on dooyoo if I’ve got a day off – now you may say that I’m addicted, and guess what? You’d be right! See, I’m not in denial, I’ll happily admit I’m a dooyoo addict, and proud of it. It’s not even about the money – I’ve earned less than £100 since I started, and while it’s very handy for my upcoming Christmas shopping, it’s not the reason I really love dooyoo. All in all, I think it’s a pretty harmless addiction – I’m learning more about lots of things, I’m improving my writing skills, and I’m having fun. If that’s what being addicted to dooyoo means, then where’s the harm in it?
Ever since ‘The Full Monty’ was released in 1997, I have heard rave reviews about it from my friends and colleagues, but I didn’t think it was the sort of film I would watch, so I had never seen it, although a couple of my favourite actors star in it. But then on Wednesday night I had nothing better to do, and a friend had been saying how good the film was at work that evening, so (against my better judgement) I decided to watch it. I was expecting a tacky film with a fair bit of naked flesh, and lots of swearing and bad language. What I actually watched was an intelligent comedy about six Sheffield steelworkers who when made redundant during the recession, and with very little employment going, are forced to find a way of earning some money. The main character is Gary ‘Gaz’ Schofield, played by Robert Carlyle. Gaz is a thirty-something lovable rogue, who is £700 in arrears with his child maintenance, and who desperately needs to make some money to clear the debt, so that his ex-wife will let him continue to see their ten year old son, Nathan. Gaz comes up with the bright idea of forming a group of male strippers, after watching a thousand women queuing to see the Chippendales at the local Working Men’s Club. He works out that at £10 entry, the Chippendales would make £10,000 just from that one show, and reckons he’s found the answer to his prayers. The first person to be recruited is Gaz’s best mate and former colleague, Dave Osbourne, played by Mark Addy. Dave is overweight, lacking in self-confidence, and really not sure about the whole idea, but gradually gets talked into it by Gaz. As we discover later in the film, Dave has another problem which affects his confidence as well. When Dave and Gaz come across a broken down car, which another of their former workmates is sitting in, Dave tries to fix it, before realising that the guy was actually trying to gas himself. W
e soon discover his name is Lomper (no, we never find out what it really is) and thus the troupe increases to four. In due course, and with the help of a garden gnome or two, the guys persuade their former foreman, Gerald Cooper, played by Tom Wilkinson, to teach them how to dance, and join them. Gerald is married to a shopping obsessed wife, who has plans for a skiing holiday, and he hasn’t had the nerve to tell her he lost his job six months before, so pretends to go to work each day as normal. When the guys hold auditions for two more members of their troupe, they gain Barrington ‘Horse’ Mitchell, who realises later that maybe, just maybe ‘Horse’ was a poor choice of nickname, and who is around 50 but still knows a thing or two about dance moves. Horse is played by Paul Barber, who will be familiar to many as Denzil from ‘Only Fools and Horses’. The last member is Guy, played by Hugo Speer, who can’t dance, or sing, and who already has a job, but is something of an exhibitionist, and looks forward to taking his clothes off in public. So now there are six. At this point a mention should go to William Snape, who shines as Gaz’s son Nathan. The father/son relationship is well illustrated throughout the film, with realistic issues and problems being raised. The scene in the bank where Nathan wants to withdraw his savings to lend Gaz is touching in it’s simplicity, and the expression on Gaz’s face when he realises that Nathan believes in his ability to make the scheme profitable is one which almost brought me to tears….(OK, it *did* !) ‘The Full Monty’ is a comedy, but it explores important social issues, such as the effect of mass redundancies in a largely industrial area, and the consequences of men (still traditionally the breadwinner in most British homes) not being able to provide for their families. Although there are many hilarious
scenes, there are equally as many scenes to touch even the hardest heart, but director Peter Cattaneo avoids plunging too deeply into sentimentality by cleverly counteracting the sentimental scenes with comedy. I was stunned by the quality of ‘The Full Monty’. It’s not tacky, in fact the final nude scene is incredibly tastefully done, and the strong language is completely in context for a Northern industrial community. The main cast members are all excellent, but Mark Addy as Dave gives a really fantastic performance, and was definitely my favourite character. Having watched it a few days ago I plan to see it again tomorrow, and I’m not at all surprised by the success the film enjoyed worldwide on it’s release. I’m only sorry it took me three years to see it! Definitely recommended – I loved it!
When 'Titanic' was released in 1997, I didn't exactly rush to see it. I wasn't a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio (although I am now!), had barely heard of Kate Winslet, and already knew what happened to the ship. But after constant raves from my friends I decided to watch it after all. I'd missed it at the cinema by then, so I asked for the video as a Christmas present the following year. I still didn't watch it until a couple of months later, when a rainy Sunday afternoon found me needing to occupy a few hours. Oh well, I thought. Why not see what's so special about 'Titanic'? So what *is* so good about it? Well, it's not the first film about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, but it's the best I've seen. Hopefully this opinion will explain in due course. But I think the fact that the film walked away with 11 Academy Awards, including one for 'Best Picture' speaks for a lot. So on to the story. We all probably know the basic story of the Titanic - the 'unsinkable' White Star Line ship, which sank on April 15th 1912, after colliding with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. 2200 people were on board the Titanic, and 1500 of them died, largely because there were not enough lifeboats, and many of the boats were launched more than half empty. The film itself - you probably know by now that the two main stars are Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, who play penniless artist Jack Dawson, and Rose DeWitt Bukater. Jack won two tickets for the crossing in a poker game, and is travelling with his best friend, Fabrizio (Danny Nucci) and Rose is returning to America to marry her fiancé Cal Hartley (Billy Zane). Cal is wealthy, and set to inherit more millions, and as Rose's father died leaving her mother and herself with no money, but their good name and reputation, Rose is about to marry Cal, who she does not love, and who is controlling and manipulative, having been forced into the ma
rriage by her mother. Obviously if they are to fall in love, Jack and Rose need to meet, and this is accomplished when Rose runs out onto the deck, planning to jump overboard, after a particularly heated argument with Cal. Jack is also up on deck, and on realising what Rose plans to do, talks her out of it, by telling her that he's involved now, and that if she jumps, he has to jump too, to try and save her. I'm not going to go into detail about the rest of the plot, but suffice it to say that the film follows the story of Jack and Rose's relationship as it develops over the course of the voyage. The characters of Jack and Rose are both well written, as indeed are almost all of the leading characters. Some have said that cal is portrayed as being too one dimensional, but I didn't find this to be so. I also don't agree with those who say that Leonardo DiCaprio was miscast as Jack, and that he was too young looking for the part. It's important to remember that Rose is supposed to be 17, so Jack is most likely only a little older, and at about 22/23 when 'Titanic' was filmed, I would say Leonardo DiCaprio was almost a perfect choice for the role, as was Kate Winslet for the role of Rose. Both actors breathe life into their roles, and make them more than just fictional characters - they became for me, at least, people who were real, and who I cared about. 'Titanic' is more than a love story, and more than an action movie, in that it is based around reality, and that it raises some important questions about the tragedy of the Titanic. For example, why weren't there enough lifeboats, and why were the already limited numbers of lifeboats, which had a capacity of 65 passengers launched with as few as 12 passengers, when many more people could have been saved? Why were men from the first class sections able to buy a seat in the boats, before even the women and children had left the ship? And wh
y were the first and second class passengers allowed to board the lifeboats before those in steerage and third class? Why were 6 ice warnings on the evening of the collision ignored, and why was the ship's speed increased when it was known that the area contained icebergs? There are many if's, but what is known is that many more people could have survived if the rules had been adhered to, and sufficient lifeboats had been available, and filled to capacity. Writer and director James Cameron took an enormous amount of care in the making of 'Titanic', even going so far as to have a full size replica of the ship (although only one half of it) built, and using almost the same crockery, and furnishings as the original ship. The hundreds of extras add a sense of authenticity to the proceedings, and with the costumes and varied accents, I found it easy to imagine it was 1912 again. The film is beautifully complimented by James Horner's haunting musical score, consisting of a range of sensitive instrumental pieces, as well as the well known hit 'My Heart Will Go On' performed by Celine Dion. 'Titanic' would have been a brilliant film without the score, but with it, the emotions which are conjured up mean that it is simply breathtaking. In case you hadn't guessed, I absolutely love this film. When I watch it, Jack and Rose become two people who I really care about, and although I end up crying every time I watch it, it leaves me feeling more contemplative than sad, with the tragedy of the Titanic usually in my mind for some time. I can't recommend this film too highly, and if you haven't seen it already, you must - it's one I will never tire of seeing, and definitely in my top 10 movies list.
When I wrote this review, I was approaching 25, and loved a Christmas stocking. It's now almost thirteen years later, and nothing's changed - delving into the depths of my giant 3ft (yes, really!) stocking when I wake up on Christmas morning is still the best thing about Christmas for me!
I make up a stocking for my mum as well, and at 59 she still loves the tradition just as much as me. We've both got creative hobbies, and like to include such things as arts and crafts paper, pens, etc, which can be found in discount stores such as Poundland - it doesn't have to be the good quality stuff in a stocking. I'm now diabetic so chocolate is out for mine, but Mum finds sugar free sweets or chocolate in stores like Holland & Barrett, which are always a much appreciated treat.
As it's now halfway through the year, I daresay the hunt for suitable items for Mum's stocking will start very soon ... I can't wait. I love gathering the things together, and squeezing everything in, but the best part is watching her open it on Christmas morning - especially as I'm mean, and wrap every single tiny gift individually!
Many people are surprised when they hear that I still have a Christmas stocking at almost 25, but they would be even more surprised if they discovered that my mum and grandmother still have them too! At 24, 46 and 81, waking up on Christmas morning and watching each other open our stockings is one of my favourite parts of the day, and I can't imagine not having one to look forward to.
OK, so the question is, what do you put in a stocking. I'm going to assume you're filling a stocking for a grown up here, although if you saw our stockings, you'd be surprised at how silly some of the items in them are! A good place to start is you local discount shop, such as Poundland, or one of the other shops that sells every item for a pound. Also, if you live in, or near a large town, (in my case, Brighton) there are often a multitude of Christmas themed shops open temporarily in otherwise vacant shops. These often sell novelty items, and silly Christmas themes items like hats, etc.
If you have any gadget type shops near you, you might be surprised at the products they sell - they aren't always expensive, and often there are lots of novelty keyrings and pens, or similar items.
Stores like Woolworths, and Superdrug can be useful for toiletry items, and small trial sizes of things like bath pearls, or novelty sponges.
Your local stationers will probably have a selection of novelty pens, or small notepads, and the inevitable pocket diary, which is always useful if you're as disorganized as me!
Don't think you have to put 'really nice' or 'grownup' things in, use your imagination - a silly sense of humour seems to run in our family, so we often put a bottle of childrens bubble mixture in our stockings, and things like this can really make it fun.
Of course, sweets and chocolate are usually popular, and something like a Terry's chocolate orange may be well received. I also like to receive things like hair accessories, or earrings, so if you're buying for a woman, you might find it worthwhile to take a look in Claire's Accessories or a similar shop if there's one near you.
Basically, don't be afraid to buy silly or novelty items, and use your imagination!
So much emphasis is put on the traditional Christmas dinner, that it often becomes the focus of the entire day for the poor cook. Having taken over the Christmas catering from my mum and nan on my 18th birthday (yes, it's Christmas Day!), this will be my 8th year as cook. There are only five of us for Christmas each year, which may seem comparitively few to some, but is still more than enough when there are only usually two people in our small flat! Some of the things that I do on Christmas Eve, to save time and effort the next day are: Prepare vegetables where possible - I always prepare the brussels sprouts, carrots and swede, and then put them in plastic ziplock bags in the fridge, with just a splash of water in each bag to keep them moist and fresh. All you need to do on Christmas Day is to tip them in a saucepan! If, like us you make sausage and bacon rolls, you can wrap each cocktail sausage in half a rasher of streaky bacon, and place them in a disk ready to bake the next day. Wash up as you go along - I have a knack of being able to use every item in the kitchen, and washing up and wiping down counters as you go really makes a difference. If you cook for a large amount of people you may want to consider using a mini oven, or electric steamer, which takes the pressure off the usual single oven and four rings to cook on. I'm lucky in that we have a double oven, with the usual four ring hob, plus a microwave, mini oven, and electric steamer - it's just more space i need now! You don't need a precise timetable, just a rough plan - or a traditional routine! For example, I always start on dinner as soon as everyone has opened their presents in the morning, which usually gives me some breathing space at around midday to check everything is in order. In our family, at least, everyone is very relaxed on Christmas Day, and nobody expects everything to be perfect. If you forget something, or burn part of the
meal, just ignore it, and carry on - it's Christmas, and it's not worth getting stressed out over burnt bread sauce, or overcooked carrots! Personally, I always make one mistake on Christmas Day, which last year was forgetting the individual Yorkshire puddings, and finding them in the oven later, and the previous year was not buyig any bread sauce, and not discovering until someone asked where it was! Everyone has come to expect it now, and when my single mistake happens each year, we just laugh about it, and fix it if it's possible. The point I'm trying to make, is do as much as you can beforehand, and be reasonably organised on the day, but don't expect perfection! And if anyone complains, tell them to cook thei own Christmas dinner next year, or eat what they're given!
Every once in a while, a film comes along which I never tire of seeing. 'A Life Less Ordinary' is one such film. Released in 1997, and brought to our screens by the same team who gave us 'Trainspotting', this film is described on the video case as 'an extraordinary' love story. What you actually get is so much more than a love story - romance, comedy, fantasy, and action, all rolled into an hour and a half. When Robert (Ewan McGregor) is fired from his job as a janitor, to be replaced by a robot, on the same day that his girlfriend announces she's moving away with an aerobics instructor, he decides to take action. He visits his ex-employer, Naville, who just happens to be lecturing spoilt daughter Celine (Cameron Diaz) about her life, and ends up leaving the office having accidentally shot Naville, and kidnapped Celine. Unbeknown to them, two celestial cops, played by Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo have been given the task of visiting Earth to make Robert and Celine fall in love - their incentive being that if they don't succeed, they don't get back into Heaven! There are several scenes which had me in total hysterics (the phone call to Naville is one), and I could easily watch this film several times in a day (3 is my record so far!) With a witty script, which is sharply observed, excellent performances from all the cast, and a wonderful sense of fun, this is one film everybody should see. There is a lot of strong language, especially from Holly Hunter's character, O'Reilly, so some viewers may be put off by that, but I didn't feel it was excessive. If you haven't seen this film, you must! And if you have, then why not watch it again? I'd definitely recommend it, bcause it's just so different to most films released nowadays.
Released in 1998, 'Sliding Doors' is written and directed by British actor Peter Howitt, who you may remember played Joey Boswell, in Carla Lane's 1980's Liverpool sitcom, 'Bread'. In this, his directorial debut, Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en, Emma, Moonlight and Valentino) and John Hannah (McCallum, Four Weddings and a Funeral) star as the two romantic leads, whose lives and relationship unfold according to whether Paltrow's character catches a certain train or not. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen Quilley, a London publicist who travels to and from work on the Tube. When she meets fellow traveller and businessman James Hammerton, played by John Hannah, the storyline cleverly diverges to show the consequences of whether Helen gets the train home one evening, or not. The parallel storylines sound more confusing than they actually are, thanks mainly to the clever use of a change in hairstyle for one of the 'Helen' characters. The script is sharp and witty, although some people may object to the rather large amounts of strong language. With solid performances from both Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, and a twist at the end, which is somewhat predictable, but ties the film up satisfyingly, this is definitely a British film that is well worth watching, and I would highly recommend it.
Having been a viewer of Stars in their Eyes since it first started about ten years ago, presented then by Leslie Crowther, I can say that the show is well worth watching. For the past eight years, it has been presented by Matthew Kelly, who I think is a brilliant choice of presenter. The basic idea of the show is that each for the first twelve shows each series, five people appear as a famous singer - everything about their appearance is transformed by the amazing makeup and costume departments, but the voice is down to them! At the end of each show, the studio audience votes for the best performer, who then goes through to the end of series final, and eventually there is an overall winner for each series. I don't always agree with the people who win, but part of the fun of watching at home is deciding who should win, and then watching to see if the audience agree. The show is now so popular that from now on there will be two series each year, instead of just one - this is great news for me, as I try never to miss a show. Many of the past winners have gone on to become quite famous, either as the person they impersonated on Stars In Their Eyes, or as a singer in their own right. The programme showcases many undiscovered talents, and the fortunate ones have a valuable chance to sell themselves to the viewers at home, and maybe get themselves 'discovered' - after all, they never know who may be watching! All in all, I would recommend Stars In Their Eyes to anyone who likes the typical light entertainment that is shown on a Saturday evening.
Although I don't usually wear make up, when I do, I like it to stay put, and my lipstick always seems to wear off quickly. So when I discovered Lipcote a few years ago, I thouht I'd try it. It promised to fix my lipstick, without smudging, a promise I just had to challenge. Lipcote comes in a small glass bottle, abot 10ml or so I guess. It is a colourless liquid which looks rather like clear nail polish, and is in the same type of bottle, with a small brush built into the lid. To use Lipcote, apply your lipstick and blot as usual, then paint a thin coat of Lipcote over it. It will tingle slightly for a few seconds or so, which is normal, and nothing to worry about. You should avoid eating or drinking for about five minutes after applying the Lipcote, in order to make sure it's completely dry. Lipcote is one of the rare products that actually works exacty as it promises. My lipstick always stays on for as long as I need it to, even when I'm eating or drinking. The only (very slight) disadvantage is that it can sometimes be hard to remove your lipstick when you want to! Definitely recommended.
Crossroads was a half hour soap opera that ran from 1964 to 1988, I used to watch it every weekday evening, from about 1983 to its end five years later, and despite it's being a "low budget" production, I think it was one of the best soaps around. Set in the fictional Birmingham suburb of King's Oak, Crossroads motel was remarkable for one thing in particular - there never seemed to be any guests! However, who worried about guests when there were the staff's personal problems to concern ourselves with? Recently, it has been confirmed that Crossroads will be returning to our screens next year, to fill the weekday lunchtime slot left vacant when Home & Away moved to Channel 5. It has also been rumoured that Crossroads will now be set in a hotel, instead of a motel, and that Jane Rossington will return as Jill Chance, but that Paul Henry has not yet been approached about returning to his role as lovable handyman Benny. It remains to be seen whether Crossroads can be successfully resurrected after 13 years, but I certainly look forward to it's return at last!
It's a couple of years now since ITV took over the Formula One coverage from the BBC, and my only concern was that they would interrupt the race to show adverts every 15 to 20 minutes. I tried to tell myself that they wouldn't actually make us miss 3 out of every 20 minutes of live F1 racing just for ads, but when the first race was shown I found that was exactly what happened. I realise that ITV is a commercially funded channel, unlike the BBC, which is funded by TV licence fees, but do the powers that be really think we like our live sports coverage interrupted by inane adverts? When they break to show the adverts, we are missing around three minutes, which in F1 terms can be absolutely crucial. We miss out on drivers challenging and overtaking each other, retirements, interviews, commentary - can you imagine the outcry if ITV had had the F1 coverage when Ayrton Senna crashed at Imola in 1994, and there's been a commercial break at the time? OK, so it was absolutely horrifying to watch, but it was a crucial part of the coverage.... This really is my only complaint about ITV having the coverage. The commentary from Murray Walker and Martin Brundle is absolutely excellent, and the pitlane commentaries are good too. The camera coverage is usually sot on, giving us good views of the race, and everything that goes on. Overall, I still would recommend that people watch the F1 coverage on ITV, because there's no alternative, but I really wish they'd suspend the ads just for the duration of the race - they wouldn't dare have a break in the middle of the World Cup Final, so why interrupt our Formula One?
I can't say I ever watched Blue Peter regularly, probably about once a week when I was younger, but I used to really enjoy it. It's educational especially where world affairs are concerned, and the annual Blue Peter appeal really helps children to see the impact that saving ring pulls, or tin foil has, and how much good such a small action can do in underdeveloped countries. The studio activities are clearly demonstrated and are usually put together with items that most homes are likely to have around the house...not as much emphasis on washing up liquid bottles and sticky backed plastic these days though! Most of the presenters are likeable, and they seem to get on well together, which makes the show even more watchable, and of course the presence of the Blue Peter pets makes some of the younger children want to watch even more! Over the past few years, Blue Peter has undergone several changes, to the set, the presenters, and the theme music and titles, and yes, it does now sem to be aimed at younger teens as well as the 6-12 age group. but that's quite a good thing. I believe that Blue Peter is probably the best childrens variety prgramme on TV - it's lasted 40 years, so it must be doing something right! One to watch - even if you're older, or don't have kids!
Having been a fan of Jerome Flynn since his days in 'Soldier Soldier' as Paddy Garvey, I was eager to watch 'Badger' when it started last year. Jerome Flynn stars as Tom McCabe, who after leaving the Navy, joined Northumberland Police as a dedicated wildlife officer. The series also stars former 'Casualty' star Rebecca Lacey as an RSPB officer, who often works closely with Tom on wildlife related cases. She also happens to be married to his boss... In the first episode of the first series, we were introduced to Wilf, who turned up on Tom's doorstep, and revealed that she was his 20 year old daughter, born after his brief marriage in his late teens, following his wife leaving but not knowing she was pregnant. We also see quite a lot of Steph, a local vet who runs a wildlife sanctuary, and was romantically involved with Tom, until the return of her estranged husband Ralph, who it now looks like she'll get back together with. He's already told her he wants her and their son back, so will she choose Tom or Ralph? I guess we'll have to wait and see... Badger is a good programme to watch when you don't want to use too much brain power, as it's entertaining, and has some good humorous moments as well as the action type scenes. The countyside scenes are often filmed in particularly beautiful surroundings, and the characters are all likeable, so you do get rather attached to them. In my opinion, one of the best drama series of recent years.
When I first got a computer four and a half years ago, I joined AOL, to see what the Internet was all about. Since then I have discovered that AOL users are generally looked upon as creatures of sub-normal intelligence, who are to be pitied because of their obvious lack of intelligence in choosing such a below par ISP. OK, so AOL is a little behind the times in not providing POP3 email, and also with their limited filtering options for email and newsgroups. However, for the most part the whole AOL interface is clear and simple to use, even for people new to the Internet, and there are many advantages to using AOL. There is a huge amount of online content, with thousands of message boards and support groups, and categories ranging from astrology to cookery and health, as well as many more obscure topics. The file search utility has been nothing short of a godsend to me over the years, enabling me to discover many screensavers, puzzles, games and other utilities that I never would have known about had it not been for the AOL members who uploaded them to the file search area. AOL also has a built in Instant Message facility, as well as an easy to use member search utility. For those who already have an Internet account with another ISP, it is possible to avoid paying phone call costs for AOL, by selecting the TCIP option in the setup process. You can then go online with your usual ISP, and log in to your AOL account at the same time, giving you the best of both worlds. Overall, I think AOL could make a few improvements, mainly with their email and newsgroup features, but they provide a good ISP service with great online content, and I wuld especially recommend them to new net users, or people who want to make use of the AOL specific online areas. Update ~~~~~~ Since I wrote my original opinion, AOL have introduced a flat rate, unlimited access package, for £14.95 a month. I can't comment on thi
s, because I haven't yet changed to the new package, but I have heard that access is generally good, with no automatic 2 hour cut-off, as many 'unlimited' packages have. When I do change to the unlimited access plan, I will update again, with my experiences .
Being an infrequent DIYer, I usually visit my local Homebase store every couple of months, or whenever my latest project takes place. I have been consistently impressed with the store, and positively love wandering around and discovering new "essentials". The store is reasonably well laid out - maybe a bit illogical if you want to go straight to your chosen item, but as a brower I just wander around the whole store, knowing that I'll come across the items on my list eventually! The range of stock is good too, and I've never not been able to get what I want, or at least an equivalent alternative. Generally speaking the store is clean and tidy, although one minor gripe is that the aisles are slightly narrow, especially when large. bulky or heavy items are being moved around. The staff on the shop floor are always helpful and relatively knowledgable, although I can't always say the same for the checkout staff. Most of the time thay are fine, but some of them fail to even acknowledge the customer, and just star ringing up the items without so much as a glance at you. Working in customer service myself, one thing we are trained to always do is to greet the customer, and it does make a big difference to their perception of the store. However, for the most part, all the staff are polite and helpful. My local Homebase has a customer toilet and a vending machine for canned drinks, as well as a payphone, which is useful as I nearly always need to call a taxi to get my purchases home. The toilet is always clean and tidy, which is a big plus point. Overall, I would use Homebase as my DIY supply store of choice, except maybe for B&Q superstores, but as the nearest of those is 8 miles away, it's irrelevant anyway. I'd definitely recommend Homebase, based on my experiences shopping there.