- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I've had at least half a dozen Radley across-the-body bags thanks to having a husband who liked the brand and keeps buying them for me. One of his most successful purchases was a Radley oilskin bag which was the single most used of all my Radleys and I had pretty much worn it into the ground. Earlier this year he bought me a second of the oilskins and it's also one I use a lot.
Oilskin fabric is a sort of waterproof, wipe clean plastic-coated fabric, originally designed for keeping sailors dry. These days it’s used for wipe down table cloths although the Radley fabrics are matt rather than shiny. The fabric has good water-repelling properties - if you happen to get caught in a monsoon which is exactly what happened to me a few days ago in Mumbai. It held up and kept the contents dry. Unlike leather bags the colours don’t fade, the fabric is really hard-wearing and it’s much lighter in weight than a leather bag.
The key benefit of a cross-body bag is that you have both hands free to do whatever you need to which is particularly handy when you’ve got a suitcase in one hand and your tickets in the other. Security-wise, you know that anyone who might want to steal your bag is probably going to have to cut your head off in order to get to it. Reassuring!
My first oilskin was larger than my new one and I recommend you check out the features carefully before you pick one of these bags.My first bag had a main compartment with a large zipped pocket and a patch pocket as well as a large outer slide-in pocket that was big enough to carry a lot of gear and a patch pocket on the outside. The new one looks similar in size from a distance but is actually much smaller. It doesn’t have the outer slide-in pocket which means almost everything has to go inside the bag because there’s only a small pocket on the outside.
My newest is approximately 10 inches high and 9 inches across. It’s hard to be accurate because the dimensions change depending on how ‘stuffed’ the bag is. It looks small when it’s empty but it’s quite remarkable how it seems to expand in use.
Having almost everything inside the zipped main compartment is better for security but it makes the bag more of a bucket and it I have to scrabble around to find things a bit more.
Price and Recommendation
The RRP of my bag was £69. The larger size - which I recommend if you want more structure and more space - is a little more.
I was a user of the Book People long before I discovered their website. I used to look forward to receiving their little catalogues through the post and buying up more books than I really needed because their discounted prices were just so good.
I switched to the website when I realised that I'd earned quite a lot of loyalty points with them and it seemed that the only way to redeem those was with online orders. I have found however that I didn't really get into the website and tended only to use it when I was prompted by the arrival of the posted catalogue - as before!
If I try to use it without the paper copy catalogue, I find the site quite hard to navigate and I tend to get distracted into looking at lots of books that aren't actually on any kind of special offer. I fear that the site floods their book lists with books that they 'could' supply if you wanted them (for a price) rather than focusing on what's available in large quantities at good discounts.
As well as books - fiction and non fiction and for a wide range of ages and interests - they also offer stationery and a small selection of non-book gifts. There are often bonus offers - for example they tend to give away a nice diary in the run up to Christmas if you spend a certain amount, and they have some good paperback fiction collections where you can get (for example) 10 books at a heavy discount.
Postage is free if you spend £25. I've taught myself to resist buying more than I really want and to pay the postage if necessary.
When he passed his 50th birthday last year, something bizarre happened to my husband. He morphed from being the sort of man who liked cutting the grass because it meant he could play with his petrol mower, into becoming a hyper-keen gardener.
We discovered Haylofts website when he spotted a good deal in a weekend newspaper for some hellebores. Ironically, I have absolutely no idea what happened to the hellebores he bought as they cannot now be found anywhere in the garden and probably turned into slug food. BUT that first order unleashed a frenzy of plant buying.
We buy from Haylofts, Thompson and Morgan and Van Meuwen. Van Meuwen tends to be the place we go for bulbs, but Haylofts is the one we focus on for shrubs and flowers.
Haylofts is a mail order only business run by a group of women in wellies. Take a look at their website - that really is how they are photographed. My husband google mapped the nursery, wondering where it was and confirmed it was no surprise it was mail order only as it was tucked down a tiny lane.
When you buy plants there's often a long wait before they are delivered. I guess the nursery takes the orders and then plants up enough to have them ready to mail out later. Some things come in a few days whilst other orders could be for 4-6 months later. Just before leaving for our holidays, my husband gave them a call about an order he's placed for some Japanese anenomes which were due to arrive that week. He explained that if they arrived whilst we were away, they'd probably die and if they arrived in the next couple of days, he wouldn't have time to plant them. The lady on the phone was very helpful and agreed to delay despatch until after our trip.
Hayloft's point of difference is that they do stunning deals on larger orders. So for example if a set of 6 plants cost £10, they might well do 12 for £15 and 18 for £16. I advise to find a garden buddy to share the deals with as it can be a bit overwhelming if you get too much.
Haylofts have a satisfaction guarantee - if for any reason you don't like the plant or it doesn't succeed, they will give you your money back. Sadly I don't think "I can't find where the hellobores have gone to" would qualify as a reason for a refund.
Amazon.co.uk is my standard starting point when I'm looking for books. I like the flexibility of being able to buy new or second hand and being able to maintain a wish list. When I can't find what I want at Amazon, my next port of call tends to be the Book Depository website. The differences between the two retailers are probably smaller than before because Amazon now owns Book Depository.
Book Depository only does books so unlike Amazon your search for a title won't give you all sorts of non-book stuff the way Amazon often do.
Book Depository's USP is worldwide free postage to over 100 countries. This is undoubtedly brilliant for anyone outside the UK, especially since many countries still have legal restrictions on book prices. We did away with those many years ago in the UK so our book prices tend to be lower than in most other countries. So if you are in Holland or Germany - or even Australia or New Zealand - you can get some major savings. If you're in the UK though, I can't help thinking you're probably subsidising the cost of posting books to the other 100+ countries.
I mostly buy from Book Depository during their occasional 24 hour special deals sales. During those sales, they put up a limited number of copies of a book every half hour through the day. The discounts are substantial and the copies of many of the books sell out in just a few seconds. Annoyingly you never know what's coming next so you can find your day gets broken into half hourly checks throughout the day and night. I've fallen for that too often and now I try to avoid getting hooked.
We had a problem with the kettle in our kitchen. It kept tripping out all the electrics on the circuit and was becoming a real pain. So we decided it was time to buy a new kettle. My husband had recently bought a beautiful cream coloured Dualit toaster so we decided to look for a kettle in a similar colour and found a very nice Bosch model. For once I didn't just follow my instincts and get it from Amazon - I comparison shopped and found the go-electrical website. The kettle was a good £10 cheaper even after paying for the postage on top.
So far, so good or so I thought.
Time passed. I had almost forgotten I was still waiting. After 10 days I got a mail to say that they were awaiting the delivery of a large order. So it was clear that when I placed my order they didn't have any of these kettles in stock. If I'd known that I would have gone back to Amazon and had it delivered next day. Another week later the kettle finally arrived - 2 and a half weeks after I had ordered and paid for it.
Foolishly they sent me one of the trust-pilot (might have been another but I think it was tp) review links. I wrote what I thought - that they should be more honest with their stock situation and that two and a half weeks was unreasonable. They were not entirely honest in their reply to my comment. I had already told them that I wasn't impressed before I gave the TP feedback so it's not like I hadn't given them a chance to put things right.
Every complaint to a supplier should be an opportunity for them to improve. In this case they didn't take that opportunity. I will not go back to them again. Honesty about stock situations is very important - equally important as good prices.
Even before the recent decision by the DVLA to stop issuing car road tax discs, I had been renewing the road tax on my husband's car (which was registered in my name) for many years. Online payments made it possible for everyone with a computer to avoid that annoying once or twice a year trip to the Post Office to get their paper tax disc. The systems were integrated with the MOT records so you didn't need to provide any extra data or paperwork and I thought the system was great.
My husband now has a new car that's zero rated for road tax - it's a titchy little Peugeot 107. He's had it for less than a year and I wonder whether he'll remember when the year is up and whether he'll need to do the online re-registration (or more likely, he'll dump it on me).
My next door neighbours' son had a bad experience and forgot to pay his tax. He says that he never got a notification and that's quite possibly true since he may not have re-registered the car when he moved home. His mum took him round the post office and paid the fee and the fine when the DVLA eventually caught up with him. Sadly she didn't get or didn't keep the receipt and she's now had to pay over £300 in another fine. Her son has mild learning difficulties and it certainly hasn't helped that his memory is poor.
Personally, I find the whole need to go online every 6 or 12 months to process the payments really annoying. I would much prefer that the DVLA get us to set up Direct Debits and take the money automatically but it seems they need us to push the buttons and confirm we still have the car and that the MOT is still valid.
A few years ago I bought the best pair of jeans I'd ever had in my life from an M&S 'outlet' store at Cheshire Oaks in Ellesmere Port. I wanted to get some more so I tracked down the company's website and really wished that I hadn't.
You would imagine it would be easy to find a pair of straight legged jeans in a size 12, regular length leg. It's not like I was looking for anything bizarre or unusual. They most be in very high demand. To make life even easier (in theory) I even had the product code from the label. It didn't help.
Trying to find anything on this site is a pain in the butt. That applies doubly so if you're crazy enough to try to use the site for sale items. I have never been able to find what I want in the size and colour that I want it.
Of all the big retailer websites, M&S seems to have some of the worst problems. A year ago in August 2014, the company attributed its poor results to the relaunch of its website and I am not surprised. Despite the idea being that you can have your items delivered to your home or to a local store for pick up, I have never completed a sale on this website. Every time I give up in frustration and walk away before completing the sale.
Good features include lots of photos and even a video of a model walking around in your clothes. They tell you how tall the model is and what size she is so you can get quite a nice idea whether the clothes might work for you. There are lots of filters that SHOULD help you find the product you want - however an attempt just now to find a pair of jeans of the type I was looking for last year managed to find just 4 pairs, none of which were ACTUALLY jeans and all were nearly £40. What part of 'jeans are not corduroys' didn't the algorithm understand?
This review is to just update anyone who has used activebeauty.co.uk and let them know that the site has changed name and can now be found at www.allbeauty.co.uk
The new site offers the same great discounts on big (and not so big) name beauty and fragrance brands with regular extra discount offers if you sign up for their emails.
I found active beauty just a few months before it changed its name and I had a fantastic first order from them with items at up to 70% off. I've had many more orders since and never had any problems with any of them. I was able to redeem a gift voucher that they sent me when the name changed 11.5 months later (just beat the 12 month deadline).
Postage has been free in the past but currently it's only free if you spend £25 or more which you'll probably find is not a big problem as the deals are so good although it was obviously even better when it was free on all orders.
I've had four orders with the site this year. The most recent was two half price Burt's Bees beauty products. The one before was an order for £33 which represented a £145 saving on the RRPs of the items I chose. Most of my orders are at least half off and often much more.
Orders are well packed and typically arrive within a few days and I've never had any damage or any reason to complain or want to send anything back. If you love big brands but prefer small prices, this is a great site.
Indian book shops are very challenging experience for anyone who is used to a sensible, orderly book shop. Basic things like arranging the stock by genre just doesn't happen in India - I've seen 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' in the cookery section and business and travel books all mixed in with the romantic fiction. The idea of alphabetising the stock is alien to many stores.
Three or four years ago in Mumbai I found the Oxford Book Store and thought I'd found Nirvana. The book stock was well structured, the stock was logical, the alphabet was (more or less) exploited to help find what I wanted. I was there for hours and spent a fortune.
Yesterday I went back. I found it by instinct and memory on the western side of the Maidan (the open grass park where the locals play cricket and football). There was scaffolding all over the outside and once I got inside it was a disaster. Two thirds of the shelves were empty, the ones with stock were illogically arranged.
They still have a small coffee shop at the back of the store so we had a couple of cold coffees and some apple pies which were fine but nothing very special and even with a second walk around and a serious hunt for inspiration, I couldn't find a single book that I wanted.
Fortunately today I found another book shop called Kitab Khana on Mahatma Gandhi Road just south of the Flora Fountain and I now have a new favourite.
Van Meuwen is one of three websites we use to buy plants and bulbs on the internet. We combine this site with Thompson and Morgan and Hayloft, picking off the best of the offers from each of the sites. We are loyal - but promiscuously so. If you see what I mean!
As the name suggests, Van Meuwen has strong Dutch roots and the founder is indeed a Dutchman, but one who saw the light and moved to the UK in the 1960s and subsequently set up his own bulb business in Spalding a decade later. He got into mail order (and subsequently internet business) back in 1977 and has been specialising in this way of selling.
We've had a lot of great value bulbs - as an example, earlier this week they had a 100 bulbs for a pound deal which even with mail costs on top, was still less than a fiver. Add more items and spread the mail costs and it's even better value. We've also had a lot of their 'plug' plants which come out in nifty little flat packs with the plugs in tiny little units inside a cardboard sleeve.
Plants come with good instructions on where to put them and how to make them thrive and if you're ever not happy with what you've got and how well it does, they'll give you your money back without a fuss.
I would struggle to tell you that one of our three chosen plant suppliers is better than the others as all three are fantastic and offer an infinitely better range of plants than most local garden centres at much better prices.
As someone who lives in the countryside, I'm not a big fan of London finding the place altogether rather too overwhelming. However, I'd be the first to admit that there are some great things you just can't get access to outside London and one of my favourite 'must visit' shops on any trip to London is Stanfords, the amazing map and travel book store.
Thankfully, there's a Stanfords website which now means I can get the books I want - or can find out they exist and then sneak off and get them cheaper on other sites (I know - naughty, naughty - using the website.
If you've ever tried to find travel guides or maps in a small town bookshop, you'll know how frustrating it can be. There's no end of choices for Spain, Italy, France or the USA, but if you want a guide to Iran, Libya, or specific bits of India, you can forget it. At best they'll order it in for you - so why not just do that yourself with Stanfords.
The site enables you to search by destination - at region, country or city level - or by 'activities'. The activity search helps you to find books about walking, cycling, photography, etc. The map section offers a wide range of maps - wall maps, street maps, road maps etc and globes. You'll also find not just the guides to places but also the best and most obscure travel writing about your chosen destinations.
Postage is a downside to the site since the costs are calculated on the basis of the weight of your parcel. Considering that most of us are now used to free and fast Amazon deliveries, it can be a shock to have to pay normal postage rates if you're buying something heavy. However, if you need something special and you just can't get it anywhere else, the postage will still beat the cost of a day return to London.
Whilst this listing is for klmuk.com that site does not exist and if you type it into your browser you will arrive at the English language version of the real site - klm.com
For those who don't know it - and there must still be a few - KLM is the Dutch national airline whose hub is at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.
KLM.com is a website I used so often that it's on my main short-cuts bar on all my computers. I use the site several times a week most weeks and I have taken 60-90 flights a year with the airline and its partners.
So what do I use the website for? I use it for checking my points balance, for planning flights for work (I don't usually book them directly on the site as we have a company travel site that handles the bookings), for checking in for my flights and picking seats, and for booking reward flights with my Flying Blue points.
When you first start using the website, not everything is obvious. It took me a good few times before I knew where to find everything and for the navigation to become easy. Those who use the site infrequently may well find it frustrating or irritating.
Sadly I've also needed to report complaints - missed connections, stuff like that - through the site and find it incredibly tricky to get to the right page to make such complaints. That said, once you're there, KLM are very responsive and I've had refunds and compensation processed quickly.
If you find yourself frustrated on the KLM website, I recommend to pick up any issues via their facebook page where you should get a reply within an hour, any time of the day or night.
Each of my credit cards has a specific purpose and each is used in different ways. My Halifax Clarity is my overseas credit card and - thanks to the nature of my job - it takes a heck of a hammering most months.
It's rare that I use it in the UK as I have other cards that offer cash back or hotel points that I use at home. But this is the one I use for hotels, train tickets, restaurants and all other spending in foreign currencies. It's the main one I take on holiday too.
People who travel infrequently may not be aware of just how much most credit and debit cards charge you for the pleasure and convenience of using their cards overseas. Typical charges come to around 2.5 to 3% of your spending. I probably run up an average of £800 to £1000 on this card most months - representing a typical saving of between £20 to £30 a months. I think you'll agree that's better off in my pocket than a bank's pocket.
I don't take cash from ATMs in other countries with this card because I neither understand nor want to pay for cash advances on any credit card. For that purpose I have a Norwich and Peterborough current account which has zero fees.
For any overseas travel, I recommend to never rely on just one credit or debit card just in case it should get lost, broken or eaten by an ATM machine. This for me is the best of the best when it comes to spending outside the country.
If you are flicking through the credit card reviews on Dooyoo and thinking that an Amazon credit cards sounds like it would be right up your street, then I am sorry to have to disappoint you. Between 2009 and September 2014, this card was an absolute no-brainer of a winner for any keen Amazon.co.uk users. It offered an equivalent of 1% cashback on all spending and a bit more (I think it was double that) on spending on Amazon's website. As soon as you built up enough 'points' for a £10 amazon e-voucher, the card's administrators send you an e-voucher straight away by email. This could be applied to your account of if you were feeling particularly generous, could be gifted to a friend or relative.
Sadly we only joined this card scheme 9 months before it became obsolete. MBNA withdrew from the relationship with Amazon and offered people their own MBNA card. I cut mine up and told them to take a hike. If a credit card company isn't offering me an incentive that's relevant and valuable to me, I leave and find one that will.
The deal was excellent whilst it lasted and I very much hope that Amazon.co.uk will sooner or later find another credit card company to work with and bring back the card since it was very popular with a lot of keen amazon shoppers and of course cost Amazon a lot less than the perceived value to the members. After all, it's better to give credit to spend on things that they make profit on than to give you straight, hard, cold cash.
Like many members of this site, I used to be a very loyal user of the Boots Advantage Card. It offers points equivalent to 4p value on every pound spent and there are frequent extra bonus deals on top that can really pile on the benefits. In the run up to Christmas, it's not unusual to see the Boots Advantage Card loyalists maxing their cards with three for the price of two offers and lots of extra vouchers. The trouble is, that once you realise that Boots really does charge a lot more than most other stores, it's not quite so easy to get carried away.
I used to buy a lot at Boots until I realised I had far too big a stock of toiletries already and found that I could get what I wanted much more cheaply online or in stores like Savers. From then on, I only tended to use my card when buying lunches in the Boots 'Meal Deal' formula. Typically I would save up my points all year and then have a small blow out in the branch at the airport when going for my main holiday.
I don't know if they still have the machines in the stores - see I really don't go very often - but it used to be possible to get lots of additional vouchers for money off or additional points once you were inside the store. I always enjoyed seeing what goodies might be on offer and trying to max the benefits. But now, I'm trying to be a bit more choosy and only buy what I need or what I know I will definitely use.