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I have been a massive fan of Sonys consoles ever since the release of the Playstation 1 or the PS as it is referred to now. Sony consoles are generally considered to be the best quality consoles because they constantly push the limits of video gaming onto the next levels. The PSP is Sonys first console aimed solely at the handheld market which Nintendo has occupied for a long time, and it spells a fantastic entrance into a market which is constantly evolving and integrating various forms of entertainment.
The Sony PSP is much more than just a handheld video gaming system, while other consoles only let you play games (or at the most, surf the internet via a very tricky operating system) the PSP lets you watch videos, listen to your favourite music, store photos and view them whenever and wherever as well as surf the internet via Wi-Fi and so much more! Currently on the market for anywhere between £100-130 (depending on where you choose to buy), I must say that I am very happy with this console and will now explain why.
The PSP is a very sleek and stylish piece of kit, the sheer size of the screen being a hefty 4.3 inches wide as well as the perfectly placed buttons (very similar to the design of the PS/PS2 controller) makes you easily familiarise yourself with its use.
Much like these controllers, the PSP incorporates R and L buttons at the top of the console along with the standard directional and analogue controls. The other buttons are square/triangle/cross/circle, start/select for when you want to pause as well as buttons for screen brightness, an equaliser for music as well as a special Home button which whilst playing a game or watching a UMD film allows you to quickly go back to the main Home Page to do something else to your choosing. The on/off button is located at the bottom right hand side of the console alongside the hold button (what many MP3 players have to stop random buttons being accidentally pressed whilst listening to music).
The eject button is located at the top of the console and once pulled to the right; it ejects the game/UMD you currently have in your PSP. I have to say that the PSP as a whole is very well built and I have had no problems with any buttons on it so far despite reports in the media a while back that the square button was often sticky and would fail to work on some PSPs. There are no problems here and the general feeling of a good product is echoed by its sturdiness, I admit to stupidly dropping my console on several occasions and have been amazed at exactly how well built it is as there has been no damage to either the interior or exterior.
The only downside I can see and feel about this superb piece of kit is the heaviness and width of the console. It does feel a bit bulky and much heavier when compared to Nintendos DS Lite despite it being only 281grams (0.62lbs). However, Sony have spotted this and are planning on releasing a revised slim PSP in Japan from September 20th said to be 19% slimmer with superior battery life and video display. No news yet on a European launch date.
The PSP houses a lithium-ion battery which offers between 4-6 hours of playing time depending on how high the volume is up and what brightness settings you choose whilst playing. When watching UMD videos, it promises a continuous 4-5 hours of viewing time which I think is fantastic, however all gamers should take heed of the fact that you should take a 15 minute break every hour to rest your eyes from the strain (especially as this is a handheld console and therefore you are not limited by cables etc).
As mentioned before, this console is more than just your average video gaming system. Upon turning it on and reaching the Home Page you have a wide range of options ahead.
-Network Update (needed to update your system, must be downloaded via a Wi-Fi connection or via new games you buy.)
-USB Connection (allows you to transfer photos, videos, music files as well as charge your PSP via a USB cable to your computer.)
-Video Settings (allows you to change language, audio language, subtitle language, preset the UMD video volume and set what the L&R buttons do whilst watching a video.)
-Photo Settings (changes the speed of the slideshow option when looking through photos)
-System Settings (changes your name, the language you prefer to use whilst using the PSP, character set, UMD auto-start option, battery information regarding how much life is left, format memory stick, enable wma playback, enable flash player, restore the default settings, access system information and find out more about the PSP.)
-Theme Settings (lets you change the background wallpaper or the colour of the preset wallpaper.)
-Date & Time Settings (self explanatory)
- Power Save (allows user to change backlight, let PSP auto sleep after set time as well as allow for WLAN power save.)
-Sound Settings (generally about volume control, choice of equaliser, key tones being on/off.)
- Security Settings (refers to a Wi-Fi connection, especially if you are using the network at home and have saved the password and network name etc.)
-RSS Channel Settings (RSS feeds let you listen to podcasts over the internet; this setting allows you to save as many items as you wish.)
-Network Settings (change existing Ad-Hoc settings)
-Camera (you will need to purchase this as it does not come with a camera; the camera allows you to take photos using your PSP and save them directly onto your Photos folder.)
This can only be accessed when you have a memory stick containing some music to listen to.
Likewise with the Music Menu, this is where you access any saved videos you currently have on your memory stick and view them! Simple really!
-Game Sharing (allows 2 PSP users to share their games using only one game UMD)
-Saved Data Utility (lets you access your saved files in order to delete them etc.)
-UMD (only accessible when you actually have a UMD video or game in the actual system, this is where you choose for the UMD to load.)
-PSP Update (once again only accessible via a UMD being loaded, this is also where you can update your PSP.)
-Memory Stick (where you can access and load your games currently on the memory stick.)
-Online Instruction Manuals (explains how to use the internet capabilities of the PSP and how to set them up via Wi-Fi etc.)
-Location Free Player (access the player which allows you to stream TV or movies onto your PSP over a broadband internet connection.)
-Remote Play (PSP can wirelessly connect to a PS3 and stream the media from one console to the other.)
-RSS Channel (downloads podcasts from the internet.)
-Internet Browser (lets you access the internet wirelessly via a Broadband connection or a Wi-Fi network.)
Gaming on the PSP
Playing games on the PSP is a great experience (heightened by the fantastic graphics that most PSP games offer), I have to say that some games like the GTA series look just as good as the PS2 versions and it is great to know that PS2 classics like PES, FIFA, Metal Gear Solid and both GTAs have been remade or altered for PSP users.
While the console is limited in some respects (an example would be no commentary during PES 5-6) the graphics are generally well polished and glitches are kept down to a minimum. Only downside is with some games the PSP can crash at times, this has happened on a few occasions with Virtua Tennis but all it needs is for the battery to be taken out of its compartment and then put back and for the console to be restarted. Obviously if you havent chosen to save for quite some time this can be extremely annoying (to put it lightly) but it also usually happens when you have been playing for too long and have overheated the battery thus straining the capabilities of the PSP.
Consumers will also be glad to know that the PSP is region-free which basically means that if you were to buy a PSP game in Japan or the U.S it would also be playable on your European PSP! This is something that Sony have finally picked up on as many PS2 and PS owners would have had to resort to paying someone to chip their consoles or worse doing it themselves and possibly destroying their beloved and costly console in the process.
Better yet, with the Platinum Range of games (proved through sheer number of sales that these games are the best, or perhaps just the most bought?) consumers are sold such games at a reduced price (usually half the original R.R.P) of £14.99 which means that you can get two fantastic games for the usual price of a new one.
I have largely been introduced to UMD video watching through my use of dooyoo and my accumulation of Amazon vouchers which have enabled me buy these films. Because UMD videos are generally regarded as a useless technology created solely for the PSP they can be found on such website for between £3-£4. Picture and sound quality are superb as the PSP has a widescreen, most films come with audio and subtitle choices but no extra content that I have experience (which is always a disappointment). These films are especially great for when travelling as they help pass the time well and depending on the film you choose to watch can be just as absorbing as watching it on the TV.
The only downside of watching the UMDs is that you can only really enjoy them if you are watching by yourself and if you are then you should probably watch them in a quiet place as the headphones you receive in the pack along with the console upon purchase do not drown out the outside noises as much as you would like.
The PSP uses Memory Sticks (a memory card much like the SD) and I would recommend a 1GB for beginners or new users of the PSP, it is a sufficient amount to save around 70 tracks leaving more than enough for video, pictures, game saves and can be bought in all major game retailers as well as online.
Overall, I think that this console is the current leader within the market. The graphics, games as well as all the other possibilities really offer the consumer an innovative, varied and exciting experience where you are in the driving seat of exactly what you want to do and when. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a real multimedia handheld package, coupled with the fact that this is coming from Sony; a real giant within the field of electronics you know youve got a fantastic quality console in your hands!
Seeing as I am currently on holiday I think this is quite a fitting review for me to do, I have always experienced that feeling of forgetting something important only to realise upon arrival exactly how vital it is. With all the preparations, bookings and stress of finding that perfect place to relax and enjoy yourself for a couple of weeks you shouldn't forget the little things that will make your life more easier on holiday.
A set of warmer clothing is a necessity in your luggae, it doesn't matter if you are off to Spain or South America, weather can change quickly and you will want to be prepared for it. Why, just a few days ago it was 27 degrees in the U.K while Eastern Europe was experiencing much colder conditions including rain and wind. A comfy tracksuit won't break the luggage weight limit and this is especially important for younger children on those soggy days when all you can do is stay in and wait for the bad weather to pass you by.
A handheld console or MP3 player! These little gadgets help you pass the time waiting to board as well as whilst the flight is in motion. On my way to my destination I brought my PSP along to listen to music, play a few video games, watch a couple of films as well as look at past holiday snaps. They also help when you happen to be seated next to a screaming child or a really chatty couple.
Medicine from the UK. It is generally much cheaper to buy any medicine you or your family abroad might need back in the UK, paracetamol tablets, stomach upset tablets or remedies for flu are a must because you never know how your body will adjust to the difference to a new climate, food, surroundings etc. Also, buying in advance will also save you time and hassle trying to look for these remedies in local pharmacies and will probably save you a bundle too!
Something to actually document you and your families experience abroad! Whether this be a digital camera or a camcorder you should probably make sure these are at the top of your list. Along with the cameras you need to remember the charger for the battery (as well as any spare batteries you might have), lenses you might require to get that perfect snap as well as those darned memory cards.
This is obviously a cliche but a good book of course! On a hot summery day when the sun is out and it's time to sunbathe and generally relax, what better to eat the lazy day away than a good book and a cool tall drink? Or better yet, a few books, I know as a student that on my previous summer holidays I would often take a number of books to read before returning for the next semester. But beware, this does have some drawbacks as you will be made to read the books by your parents so give yourself a number you can deal with or else you might regret bringing any of them along.
Sunglasses! Don't you hate leaving the house only to ask why you are the only person squinting like mad to see the path ahead of you? This has happened to me on various occassions and has forced me to actively go round the local marketplaces and buy another pair which meant money being wasted (as I had a lovely pair sitting at home a few thousand miles away) and being sunglass-less is not good for you eyes too. A good pair of sunglasses will compliment your clothing providing you don't wear them too much...
Thus bringing me to my next point...suncreams! Without a decent suncream in hot and sunny summer days out you risk not only developing skin cancer but also looking like a right lobster with no protection out in the sun. I cannot stress this enough, on countless occassions have I seen people on holiday (family members included) risking their skin to attain that perfect shimmery tan and instead end up looking like something just cooked on the barbequeue.
First Aid Kit is probably one of the most important things you can carry in your luggage and is most likely to be used whilst abroad. I have had countless cuts, grazes and mosquito bites whilst on holiday to last me a lifetime and each of these can be treated with the simple few items in your first air pack. Plasters, bandages and antiseptic creams last a long time and are especially useful to bring when holidaying with young children although everyone else is just as accident prone!
Toiletteries and bathroom essentials are exactly that...essential. Don't forget your toothbrush, a good deodorant, some nice perfume, a comb (I simply need this to control my frizzy hair in hot climates), a moisturising shampoo/conditioner for when your hair is constantly dried out by sea water or the sun, make up to snazz yourself up in the evenings as well as a good ladies razor for when you want to make a change from looking like King Kong.
And finally an address book containing the details of all of your friends and family currently residing where you are going on holiday as well as the details of those back home who are eagerly waiting for you to send them a postcard with a quick "Wish You Were Here" scribbled on it.
Well, I hope that this review has helped, all that is left is to get on a plane and go somewhere where the weather doesn't change every hour! Bon Voyage!
Diner Dash is a video game created by GameLab with it a fresh and addictive look at puzzle gaming. Originally released on PC in 2003 it became one of the top downloaded games of 2004 where its players would take on the role of Flo, a young stockbroker who finds her work so overwhelming that she decides to quit and begin a new life by running her own diner. Due to its increasing popularity and the fact that it was suitable for gamers young and old, Playfirst decided in 2007 to bring it out on both the major handheld consoles (Nintendo DS and PSP) therefore increasing not only its audience but also its revenue.
As you begin the game you are introduced to the character of Flo via a comic book sequence, she is a stockbroker struggling with the constant inundation of work and decides to escape from it all physically by running away from her old workplace. This is where she stumbles across an old diner coupled with a "For Sale" sign and so her story truly begins...
Object of the Game
The game is predominantly a puzzle game, as a waitress in the diner it is up to you to serve the customers to visit. This involves placing them in the correct tables (too many seats for too few people and you will keep larger parties waiting) as well as serving their every need, be it food, drinks, dessert or cleaning up the mess their child has made. This might seem easy enough as you begin the tutorial but try doing all these things whilst juggling impatient and chatty customers and making sure everyone is a happy bunny!
The first few levels are just to get you used to the controls as well as what you should expect from certain customers, for example the business women tend to order and eat quite quickly which makes it great for seating new customers quickly. With every level you finish you will be able to customise a part of the diner/restaurant by either changing the colour of the walls, floor, adding tables and other bits and bobs which will really make your diner sparkle!
There are 3 game modes to choose from when beginning Diner Dash, the first is Career in which you basically follow Flo's story restaurant by restaurant. The second is Endless Shift and is basically where you play to your hearts content to rack up a mega high score, this is good if you want to practise as you are able to choose the difficulty (Easy, Medium, Hard). The last option is Multiplayer and this requires a Wifi connection as well as someone who has another PSP, here you can play against an opponent to see who gets the highest score whilst serving their customers, who is the first to serve a given number of customers or Survival mode where the object of the game is to outlast your opponent in serving customers.
If you have ever played the PC version of this game you will probably agree that the graphics are cartoony and cutesy at best, it is a 2-D game so you won't get the kind of amazing graphics that you have seen on the PSP before like on Burnout for example. All of the colours are bright and eye catching and each object is well designed so you know exactly what it is, there's nothing amazing here to really brag about, they do the job required.
The music varies in each diner/restaurant you move to, for example in the first level you will get to hear a little jazzy number whilst the Indian restaurant has an authentic feel with what seem to sound like sitars. The music is quite repetitive but to be honest I rarely notice it when I am playing a particularly tough level.
Nothing was simpler than in the PC version where all you were required to do was click at each task you wanted finished, the PSP is slightly more complicated (for obvious reasons) but you do get the hang of them pretty easily. You cannot use the analog button here because it is simply too quick to respond, instead you use the arrow buttons and the X button which is pretty much used for everything. The L and R buttons are used for when you want to seat new customers or use the objects located in the right hand side of the screen (high chair for families, tannoy system to call for back-up, bin for dirty dishes, mop and bucket for cleaning up mess etc).
Having played this game before on the PC and knowing full well how addictive it was, I thought I would test it out on the PSP. I found it as addictive as ever and great fun for getting you thinking and a multiplayer option (which was not possible on the PC version) will make this game last for a bit anyway.
The box cover probably should have warned me off, any game that says it is for 3+ yrs is clearly aimed at children, the graphics did nothing for me and its 70 levels were completed within 2 days of playing. Surely such an addictive experience should perhaps provide you with more levels to unlock or tougher tasks to complete?
Also, pricewise this game set me back £29.99 which is far too much for a game that someone could finish in a few days time. Whilst I did enjoy it overall, I now wish I had bothered waiting for the price to come down or bought it second hand. I would advise anyone else interested into doing so to avoid being disappointed, especially parents who don't want to see their £30 present tossed under the bed within a week of it being bought.
This is a game I would recommend to younger gamers predominantly, however I do think the more mature gamer would also enjoy it, however at the price of £30 the only people enjoying this would be the publishers and retailers!
A free online version for the PC can be located at http://www.playfirst.com/game/dinerdash/play however you do have to register!
I have been reading a few of these reviews and remembered that they are much like Room 101, but with the chance to rant about a few more things. Most of the things/situations in my list are related to the summer holidays as I think it's quite fitting (maybe not weather-wise) but what the heck. These are in no particular order.
1. People who practically lay out their towels and things on your patch on the beach. Now don't get me wrong, in Eastern Europe there is currently a heatwave going around and of course this means that more and more people need to cool off at the local beach. But let's say you just found the perfect spot, under a few trees shading you from the scorching sun and there's not many people about...what's the worst thing that could happen. Some idiot or some idiotic loudmouthed family placing their towels and things right next to yours and then sitting there listening to your every word. Why must people do this? There's like 50 metres of unattended beach with shade and ample space to provide for a family the size of 18 bull elephants and yet you want to share my space, my conversation and anything else in between. The next time it happens, I'm planning on being extremely obnoxious and downright rude, and if that doesn't work...don't be surprised to see all your crap in the water.
2. People who seem to think that driving/riding their jet skis 2cm away from people who are swimming in the shallows is "fun". No, it's not fun, at least not for the poor soul whose life you are toying with. A jet ski is not made for the shallows, the whole purpose of a superfast engine is to test it out in deeper waters away from other people. There have been countless injuries and fatalities all because of these selfish and egotistical people who look for nothing but a quick thrill at the expense of others and even their well-being. Frankly, anyone caught riding one of these things near swimmers should have their arms cut off.
3. Customs officials, now this is a true story. I am crossing the Croatian-Montenegro border to make my flight from Dubrovnik and am carrying one piece of luggage. My taxi is stopped at the customs and I get asked the following questions..."are you carrying any alcohol (no)...any medicine (yes 3 small packs of antibiotics)...what about food (erm...some dry beans). He actually asks me how many kilos of beans I am carrying like it's a matter of life and death and after being answered I am looked up and down like a cow at some farmers fair and then he proceeds to let me through like I should be grateful for it. Arghhhh, what a waste of time, all customs officials seem to have this ego thing going on where they feel superior to you just because they are wearing a badge and shades that once belonged to their grandmothers.
4. Old men who dress like they are still in their twenties. Mid-life crisis or what, this makes me cringe everytime I see men of 50-60 years wearing sleeveless tops with their sagging 'muscular' arms and shirts with their hairy chest popping out showing just enough medallion entangled in that fluff sporting purple shades they swiped from their grand-daughters room that day. I haven't seen as many women do this but having said that, the other day I did see a old woman wearing a corset top with a really small skirt (I want to believe it was a belt and she forgot her skirt in the ladies toilets). Awful awful, someone needs to slap some sense into them.
5. People who write long reviews on dooyoo just to appear smarter (I'm probably in this category now, only I'm not doing it to appear smarter...just to rant). Everyone knows a concise and detailed review is the best review, so why are you writing a thesis on a toilet roll? You won't get a masters out of it, or a PHD so please stop as you are probably making it worse for your future readings. I for one will not read a review on a simple subject that needlessly drags on for like 2000 words. If you want to write a book on it, feel free to do so but spare us from over-long reviews.
6. Paris Hilton & Lindsay Lohan, what is their purpose in life exactly? To drink, take drugs, have sex constantly and then sell their stories to the papers? These people have no morals and no talent (unless acting like a prostitute is considered a talent today?). And these are todays tole models. Please get off the front pages of newspapers and off my television set, I don't want to stare at your ugly faces whilst eating and I don't care if your chihuahua has 7 toes on one paw or if you went back to rehab for the 3478th time this week.
7. The Beckhams. Thank you America, I don't know how you did it or why you did it, but that's irrelevant, the best thing is you got rid of them. And yet, you think that's where it would stop and the British media would stop, their every move is being followed and being shown on TV. I thought we wanted to get rid of them, so how come we are still hearing about Beckham having not played a full match or the fact that Vic is cosying up to the Cruise's?! I don't care about what they do, what they eat or how loud they sneeze so stop printing it!!!
8. British weather. Guess what, I'm not even in Britain at the moment and it's ticking me off still! Why can't us Brits just have a normal weather cycle without the random threats of monsoon, hail, snow, clouds all in one day? What is it about us that makes us so special that we have been blessed with winter weather in summer months? It's depressing and annoying and really unfair, for one year I'd like the months to follow their proper cycle instead of drifting off to the extremes.
9. Ugly Models. I know the whole purpose of a model is to model the clothes given but would it hurt if they could bring in some girls and guys who don't look like they have just walked out of Ugly Betty's beauty parlour? These models have the height all right but have given up everything else for it, including 3/4 of their own body weight. What is the point in getting a portrait photo of yourself to show off to casting agents when you're only going to be chosen for being size -380 and looking like Lurch's twin?
10. Charity shops who rip you off, namely Oxfam but there are so many others I could mention. The whole point of these shops is that the clothes have been worn before, therefore they are not new, they are USED. Nobody walks around looking to pay £20 for a used shirt when they can get a similar designed shirt for a fraction of the price in the high street. It's practically fraud, like selling a suit seperately and then charging £15 for each piece. Ridiculous comes to mind, these shops should remember that there's no room for greed when you are meant to be helping those much worse off than you.
Well, seeing as everyone else is doing it...why shouldn't I?
~~~1. How long, on average, does it take you to get rid of someone trying to sell you something over the phone?~~~
At first I was kind and would inform the callers that I was simply not interested in any products, but seeing as how they call NON-STOP and at really annoying times during the day I usually either let them listen to the TV or pass the phone to my brother who simply loves confusing them by pretending he doesn't understand what they are talking about!
~~~2. What is the most expensive object you have ever broken on purpose? ('when angry' counts as 'on purpose' even if you regretted it soon afterwards)~~~
The all-purpose printer, I crashed it after being sick and tired of it not working especially on days when I needed to print out documents. Because it is (was 'R.I.P') placed under our desk and I was wearing my studry trainers at the time it was easy for me to stamp and kick it a few times. This broke the glass on the scanner and the same day it was chucked in a local skip for good measure.
~~~3. If you buy something for 99p with a £1 coin, do you really want the 1p back? ~~~
I have to say that it bothers me when cashiers take their time to give you back your change, especially when it's only a few pennies. But hey, I earn't those pennies and no matter how stupid I look standing there hogging up the queue, I know (and you know!) I'll get my money eventually.
~~~4. What was the last thing you shouted while alone in a car? ~~~
Well I don't have a car so I am usually shouting at drivers especially when they don't understand that a zebra crossing means pedestrians should be allowed to cross and not be faced with a lunatic trying to run them over!
~~~5. What is your typical path through a supermarket? ~~~
Fruit and Veg first, then the meat and dairy section and finally the dry foods section. It tends to vary week by week depending on what I have run out of.
~~~6. Do you lick the underside of the foil top when eating a pot of yoghurt? ~~~
D'uh! You paid for the whole thing right? So why would you not lick 1/20th of the product off the lid? I think I would find it weirder if people didn't lick the lid or scrape it off with a spoon really.
~~~7. How many greetings cards have you sent in the last 12 months?~~~
Probably around 50 or something including Birthdays and Christmas/New Year. I always buy next year's batch during January as you can get like 25 cards for a pound which is really cheap considering they are of high quality! Sorry, I'm on the whole eBay seller thing lol. (BNIB, VGC!!)
~~~8. A criminal maniac invites you to "Pick a city for destruction, Mr. Bond." Which one do you choose? ~~~
Hmm...this is tough. I don't really not like any city and haven't been to loads to say that they sucked that much that I would like to destroy them.
~~~9. Which font do you use most often?~~~
Times New Roman and Arial for when I am using Word.
~~~10. If you had the choice between a petrol chainsaw or a bread knife, which would you use for felling a small tree with a 1" diameter trunk? ~~~
I would use the breadknife just to make me feel proud of my achievement, not only the fact that I felled a tree (regardless of how small) but I did it with a freakin' BREAD knife!! Get me!
~~~11. On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you know when to use a semicolon?~~~
Umm, probably like a 6ish. Sometimes I forget what it does, or what it is.
~~~12. What proportion of the CDs you own are in their original cases right now?~~~
I don't have many CD's so around 50% tend to be in their original cases whereas the others are just scattered around in my drawer or put in Playstation 2 cases (don't ask me why).
~~~13. Favourite colour black or white?~~~
White is great when you have a tan, black is like the ultimate dieting accessory!
~~~14. How accurate is the time on your watch?~~~
It's 5 minutes ahead but to be honest I very rarely rely on my watch as I carry my mobile with me wherever I go.
~~~15. What you wearing right now?~~~
Since the introduction of the internet, this seemigly innocent question has never sounded so wrong. Currently wearing jammies as I will need to go sleep soon.
~~~16. Have you ever written to, emailed or telephoned a newspaper, radio station, TV programme etc? If so, what did you say?~~~
Yeah I collect autographs so I pretty much write to a lot of celebs requesting them and I have been pretty successful so there you go!
~~~17. Do you, in the most fundamental depths of your soul, give a crap about the extinction of the Red Cockaded Woodpecker?~~~
I don't really know anything about it to care, but I do love animals so I probably should although I hear (geddit?) they can be quite annoying!
~~~18. What is the cheapest thing youve bought with a debit or credit card in the past month?~~~
Two bottles of coca cola in my local cornershop for a total of £2.50, I mistakenly thought I had some change in my purse. Damn cashiers (see Q3).
~~~19. Favourite books?~~~
I don't really read much, which is ironic as I am a student and therefore am meant to. I really liked Life of Pi by Yann Martel, great book and Wild Swans, much recommended!
~~~20. What is your most favourite meal?~~~
Ahhh how can you ask me this? There's a whole bunch to choose from. I suppose it would be squid stuffed with parma ham with a nice type of cabbage and potatoes on the side and some rice.
Seeing as the internet has a lot of information on offer and me being constantly on the look-out for more bargains and freebies I stumbled upon this little gem of a website after browsing a few forums dedicated to free things!
Upon the site loading you notice that there are 3 main columns, the left being dedicated to Daily Donations where your clicks or searches on various charity websites help pay for a cup of food for the hungry, saves a square metre of the Amazon forest or even just aids in donating a few pennies to charities like NSPCC.
Above this is the general Competition Time section where the site is currently offering a brand new Chocolate Fountain for just a few questions related to your use of MagicFreebiesUK's website.
Within this particular column you also have little short reviews of the website by users, these are all laudative and you get a very positive image of the website (especially if you are new to it!).
The main section is where all the freebies are to be found, updated on a daily basis there are usually around 15-16 offers, 8 of which are confirmed as being brand new every day. These usually range from free sim cards (which in my opinion is the most popular and evident freebie on the site) as well as magazines, vouchers, mobile ringtones, make-up, sanitary products, food samples and even free dvd's.
Of course these offers are not completely free and do involve you having to sign up to a particular website and give them your postal details (so they can send the items out to you). In the past I have had countless amounts of free sims ranging from O2 to Virgin Mobile as well as free magazines just for ringing up and quoting a reference number. If you have your own business then it is worth checking out this site as there are often offers for free envelope samples (which are great for eBayers) or even a free 30day trial of a franking machine with £20 worth of postage included.
Not only does this site offer great freebies without you having to struggle to find them online yourself but it actually has it's own Archive page where you can look at freebies from the past month. This is great if you have missed out on a few days and want to double check that you didn't miss out on another 4 sims to add to your ever expanding collection!!
The final section is at the far right column where you have the Most Popular Freebie and below that you have a number of various competitions to enter if you wish. The great thing about these competitions is often you have the competition listing and link on the site as well as the correct answer which saves you a bit of time googling on the net.
The site is very easy to navigate and loads quite quickly considering how many offers it holds, it has a blue banner at the top of the site with the name MagicFreebiesUK in white and black font. Underneath the banner is a plain white background which is great as the font regarding the freebies is eye catching and easy to read agaisnt the backdrop.
There are several sub-sections under the site name and these are Archive (as explained), Others (Reward Programs/ Free Money/ Daily Offers), Advice (on how to win competitions etc), Links (to other freebie sites), Contact, Bookmark and Mailing List (where you can register with the site and receive a daily email informing you of the days offers.
The great thing about this site is that it is not just limited to freebies but also gives out advice to budding internet money-makers about how to win competitions, where to find the best reward/cashback sites and general freebie advice like how to blag more products from companies.
I like the clean cut design of the site, and I feel that every is well spaced and not cluttered. There are seperate sections for separate freebie offers (Pets, Food & Drink etc). It just proves that the site focuses more on you using it and accessing the offers rather than being over-run by adverts and pop-ups which makes a nice change.
All in all I would definately recommend MagicFreebiesUK to anyone in the UK looking for some free items and samples as well as learning about how to make money online. Check it out when you get time!
Kenan and Kel is a childrens programme shown every weekday on Nickelodeon at 6.30pm (channel 604 on Sky). Imagine Laurel and Hardy but younger and even more stupid and you have pretty much captured the essence of Kenan and Kel, two teenagers who are constantly caught up in some sort of shenanigans and generally causing a lot of trouble. It is a programme which I would compare to Marmite; you either love it
or you hate it!
Kenan Rockmore (played by Kenan Thompson) is the chubbier of the two and is supposedly smarter; he is always scheming up ideas and ways of getting rich or getting out of school and generally having fun whereas Kel Kimble (played by Kel Mitchell) is his slapstick sidekick who has a seemingly unhealthy penchant for orange soda who is always the one who messes everything up.
The show always starts with the two guys standing outside of a theatres curtains welcoming the live audience and usually dropping hints about what exactly they are going to be doing that evening. Of course due to Kenan dropping the odd hint and keeping the rest secret it puts Kel off wanting to help but he is always persuaded and leaves the stage with his trademark saying Aww here it goes!
Each episode has an average running time of 25 minutes and the episodes themselves are very varied and tend to include a lot of Kenans family members (especially his father who simply hates Kel) as well as his school friends and teachers.
One particularly memorable episode is when Kenan gets a call from his headmistress that she needs to talk to his parents; presuming he is in trouble, Kenan decides to hire (yes, as ludicrous as that may sound) a set of new parents and Kel is given the task of finding actors to play them. This is where the stupidity sets in as Kel (though fully knowing that Kenan is black) goes out and finds a Chinese couple who cant even speak English. Obviously Kenan rejects them and when they do finally stumble upon a good pair more mischief occurs when at the Heads office, Kel invites the principal over to a family dinner later that week meaning that the actors would have to continue their charade. The episode finally comes to a boil when the real parents come back home that evening to discover two strangers in their home and Kenan pretending not to know them.
Personally I have watched Kenan and Kel for a number of years now and although Ill admit its not to everyones taste it is actually really funny. The whole point of the programme is to laugh at the stupidity of Kel as well as Kenan who in my opinion must be more stupid out of the two if he is consistently asking Kel (who is always going to ruin everything) for advice and help!!
As with many comedy shows there are always catchphrases associated with each character, for Kenan it is to shout Why?!? when Kel has ruined something that he was planning and Kel has a few, apart from the Aww here it goes Kel has his own little ditty which he sings to his beloved orange soda;
Who loves Orange Soda? Kel loves orange soda is it true? Oh I do I do I do-oo!
I would describe Kenan and Kel as a panto really, you get to know each character well and there are always instances where you feel that you should be shouting to both characters to warn them off doing something because you simply know it is going to end in disaster. Even the opening song is catchy, performed by the rapper Coolio I dare anyone not to join in or forcibly memorise the words after a few viewings.
All in all, Kenan and Kel is a childrens programme and it is predominantly to children who it will appeal to, however if you are in the mood for silly laughs then why not give them a go?
Aww here it goes!
Back in the mid-nineties there was one crisp which ruled over the rest, Skips, and while they might not be in the same league as Walkers Sensations they definitely give you a good small snack, not too packed on calories and very tasty!
~What does it look like?~
The outer packaging is a very bright yellow and red so you could say it is quite eye-catching! On the front of the packet it has a blue label informing the consumer that it had the following:
1. 50% less saturated fat
2. Less than 100 calories per pack
3. No artificial colours or flavours
4. No MSG
5. Is made with a blend of sunflower oil
As well as this, you are informed what flavour it is (Prawn Cocktail of course!) and what it is called in very funky red font with an arty photo of the actual Skip crisp!
~What does it taste like?~
Skips have a very particular taste and seeing as they only come in the prawn cocktail flavour, the taste is nice and has the taste of prawns, a little tangy but not overpowering. The crisps themselves look like an opened umbrella if you were viewing it from the top, and the size (about the size of a 10 pence piece) is just enough for you to be able to grab more than a few to chuck into your mouth!
As soon as you put a few into your mouth, providing they are on the tongue you will feel them slightly sizzle and melt ever so softly. Coming to the end of the packet you will want to tilt it over to empty the last crumbs and pieces of the Skips and this you will not be able to resist as they simply ARE finger-licking good!
~Where can I buy them and how much will they cost?~
I bought a multi-pack from Iceland today, so for a 12 pack I only ended up paying a measly £1! Thats around 8 pence a pack, now I am sure that this was a promotional offer and wont last long, however Skips is not as dearly priced as its competitors anyway. You can buy them in off-licenses, corner-shops and obviously the massive supermarkets. A pack in a corner shop usually costs around 25-30 pence so if you are a massive fan, you would be better off getting a big saving by looking out for multi-packs!
These crisps are great for the kids as well as adults, and can be easily added to any packed lunch as they are healthily balanced and only contain 89 calories per pack! They are very tasty and if you are planning on buying a multi-pack, then make sure you stash some away for yourself, because if the rest of the family see them lying around your tongue wont get a look in!
After having tried Sanex, Dove and a lot of other brands in order to help me control the amount I sweat during the hot summer months, I stumbled across Mitchum at my local Superdrug. Despite it only being a 100ml roll on deoderant and quite pricey in terms of what others cost (£2.95!!!), I was very interested in testing out its 48hr protection theory...Mitchum state that their roll-on is "so effective you could even skip a day!"
Mitchums for women comes in a metallic green coloured tube with a screw top which helps keep the deodorant from drying too easily. It has a translucent sticker on the front with a big white font used for the brand name, on the back of the tube is some general information about the ingredients as well as the directions.
Before using this product, it is advisable to shake the bottle, apply the deodorant evenly on your underarms and then replace the cap tightly once this is complete. Also it states that you should not apply the product to damaged or irritated skin (like after a harsh shave) and to discontinue use if a rash develops.
I tested the roll-on on my freshly shaved underarms and was pleasantly surprised that it did not sting me, also the aroma was very pleasant and not overpowering at all. I would describe the aroma as light and almost like talcum powder. There was a slight sticky feeling upon the deodorant touching my skin but this dried quickly and as I was getting dressed, there were no white marks on my top!
As for the 48 hour protection, you will be surprised (as much as I was) that this was totally true (for me anyway). I was very wary at first but after the second day was through I noticed that I could still smell the aroma of the roll-on and that my underarms felt smooth and sweating was minimised.
Of course I am not going to say that this roll-on completely stopped me from sweating, but along with me wearing natural fabrics like cotton which were a bit looser and airier, I really didn't feel like I was sweating as much as I usually would in 35 degree heat!
The real test took place yesterday when I went climbing up a fortress (San Giovanni) in Montenegro. I have to say that after 2 and a half hours of climbing, my sweat patches were kept to a modest amount whilst other people around me looked like they just walked under a waterfall (I was tempted to recommend them Mitchum's!).
All in all, I would strongly recommend this product to everyone who feels that their spray on or even roll-on is not working to the maximum. Despite the price being more than your usual roll-ons, the product lasts long (especially if you are only planning to use it once every two days for the 48hr protection). I still have mine here and it has lasted me more than two months, despite an application every day!
It can be bought in major drug-stores like Boots or Superdrug as well as supermarkets such as Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's. But I would especially recommend buying it from Superdrug as you always have a little discount off the retail price.
£2.95 per 100 ml (roll-on) at Boots
£2.75 per 100ml (roll-on) at Superdrug (the last time I bought it)
Please note that parts of this review is also written on Ciao under my username there, bwerket.
Grand Theft Auto is one of the most popular video game series of our time, notably because it allows the player to revel in a world where you are a paid criminal and can do pretty much anything you want. Of course, Grand Theft Auto was where it all began and where the world was introduced to a franchise which would become more and more controversial as time went by.
The first GTA was a huge success and it is easy to see why. This game is set in 3 fictional cities in the United States; San Andreas, Liberty City and Vice City (later to be used as backdrops for later releases on the PS2).
Each city holds 3 special levels where you are taken under a wing of the local Mafioso (these range from the Italian mob to the Japanese) and have to complete missions in order to move up the clan and gain more money.
The jobs range from dropping cars off into private garages around the city, stealing drug shipments from other gangs, acting as a getaway driver for important business friends and generally killing police officers and pretty much anyone who gets in your way.
As expected, with each level you pass, the tasks become harder and harder. Of course you are given weapons to help you along and these range from the simple revolver to the downright crazy rocket launcher! There are also a variety of cars to drive (and steal, as the case may be) ranging from the police car to an Army tank. Sometimes the most fun you can have is just driving around the city looking for new jobs or the slickest cars to steal and then sell on at the local docks.
The graphics are what would be considered today as blocky, you can't make out characters faces although the buildings and the detail on the cars are quite well done. The only time I would call the graphics impressive is when vehicles blow up, there is a somewhat realistic little fireball but everywhere else in the game the graphics resemble that of a cartoon. The game plays in a bird's eye view and while many gamers have stated that this is a hindrance I personally find it particularly useful as it gives you enough space ahead of your character and behind to see the surroundings and how far back your enemies are (this is especially useful during car chases with the police).
For me, this game gives the player the ultimate choice in how they want to play the game and reach the top of the Mafia world. It is ultimately up to the player whether they choose to complete all the missions or just enough to reach the next level.
On top of the usual missions you have to take there are secret missions which can only be found via reading your pager or generally driving around and seeing unopened crates. The Kill Frenzy missions are dotted around the cities and often have a select target number of points you need to achieve whilst using a particular weapon in order to get a plump bonus. One of the most fun missions is using a little toy car packed with C4 and driving it around town looking for a specific suspect.
The soundtrack for the game is a mish-mash of pop, funk, hip-hop and country. From the starting point of the game when you enter the blue 'company car' waiting for you and the track 'Lemon Pop' rings out with the singer shouting "Woo!" followed by the funky guitar and drums in the background you can't help but feel pumped up and ready to enjoy the game. Each car you enter has a different type of music, trucks have country music, sports cars have dance music and even police cars have you listening to their hilarious police radio conversations about doughnuts and spouting random numbers to make themselves sound more authentic.
Another tip I can give to existing GTA owners or those who are interested in buying this game is that if you are a big fan of the music (like me), just insert the game disk into a CD player or your PC and you will get full tracks for all the songs in the game!
Whilst the positives by far outweight the negatives of the game, there are a few I can mention. The impossibility of saving mid-level is one that can leave a gamer fuming at times. Some levels (especially those towards the end of the game) need over 3 million points and this isn't an easy feat so when you have been playing for 2 hours and are 10pts away from the requested total and your mother switches off the Playstation whilst hoovering you can't help but feel cheated. Obviously the graphics may not be to everyone's taste but you have to bear in mind that this was a game made nearly 10 years ago and that some of the most addictive games didn't necessarily boast the best graphics (Tetris...Pong anyone?)
If you are new to the GTA franchise or have played the latest ones but missed the first, then try this game out, because if you don't you will be missing out on a classic!
Please note that parts of this review were taken from my review in Ciao under my username there, bwerket.
Charity shops are fantastic revenue for charities who are constantly seeking new ways of obtaining funds for a their particular cause. In my local area there are a number of different charity shops scattered over town and whilst all of them are aiming to highlight and gain money for their cause, only a small number offer realistic prices on the evident second hand goods found within them.
My local Oxfam, put simply, is unfortunately not one of them. While it boasts a very clean and professional window display and an interior lavishly furnished with wooden shelves, bulky desks and roomy changing rooms...it has replaced bargains for greed. Don't get me wrong, I love charity shops and I totally understand that Charities need to get as many items sold as possible to ensure a steady and healthy income for their cause, however it is when you begin charging ridiculous prices for everything that people begin to see that the store is run on greed rather than generosity.
I remember as a child how embarassing it would be if any one of your school mates ever caught you shuffling about in the store with your mother and how everyone used the word 'Oxfam' as a derogatory term against someone. This was back when the shops were a real mess but also when they offered bargains like books for 30p and clothing costing not much more than a few pounds. Ofcourse when you age and predictably (or hopefully in some cases) mature, you realise that no one really cares about where you shop and actually everyone wants to spend a decent amount (not too much) of money to look the best they can.
Thanks to the new and more modern stores stocking not only second hand clothes and objects, Oxfam now stock special calendars, books and even chocolates which are all fair trade and ensure that no farmer or worker has had their produce undervalued as a means of lining company pockets.
My local shop (as stated above) does look fantastic both inside and out. Laminated floors and less crowded shelves mean that there is now more room for customers to walk around and browse each separate section seeing if anything catches their eye.
The clothing section is neatly separated into sizes and colours which means as you walk into the store you feel as though you have just walked into a rainbow, this also generates a more pleasing aesthetic appearance of the store and means you spend less time checking colours and labels for the correct size.
The book section is another vast improvement, before the store was generously revamped the books were left in baskets or stacked one on top of the other like some sort of tower of Pisa, obviously this led to customers having to crouch or sit on the floor just to see what the title of the novel was. Thanks mainly to wide spacious shelves the books are now separated into different sections depending on their genre and each book has a special round coloured sticker which informs you of the price. Older or rarer books are kept in see-through glass cabinets and these can only be accessed by asking a member of staff. You can expect to buy a decent condition novel for £1.50 but beware that the prices of more recent and popular novels does tend to range from £3 - £4 which means you would probably be better off buying it online or via a very popular supermarket brand new.
The staff themselves have always been very kind and helpful and this has not changed, as always they are very happy when donations enter the store no matter how small and they always make the purchasing experience a breeze. Their counter is often reserved for the jewellery area where the top half of the desk is glass encased, here you can buy little broches, watches, necklaces or even rings for any occassion. I haven't ever personally bought jewellery from Oxfam as I don't really know what I am getting and the prices tend to be out of my price range anyway however if you are a collector it is worth having a look to see if there is anything that might interest you. My only gripe with the staff is when you do have a look at the jewellery at the main desk:
a) You have to bear in mind that there are other customers waiting to purchase their goods and therefore you might deemed to be in the way.
b) The staff watch you like a hawk when you ask if you can see a particular piece closer, I find this off putting and I can't help but get the feeling that sometimes they are pushing for a hard sell.
The clothing section may be neat and lovely to look at from afar but the prices are sky rocketing every time I enter the store. A simple casual black skirt costs on average £12, shirts are £10 and even bland ties reach the £5 mark. God forbid if you should happen to find a brand name on the label your item of clothing as this pushes the price up further, I have seen Gucci jeans on sale for £40 and a yellow Bennetton t-shirt for £15!! Forgive me if I am wrong but isn't the point of a charity shop to sell second-hand goods at more than affordable prices rather than try and rip off the caring customer who has actually chosen Oxfam over the more than price-friendly Primark? This ridiculous over-pricing system has also made itself apparent in other areas of the store, second hand scuffed shoes are retailing for between £20-£30 and a set of old curtains actually surpassed the £100 mark ( I almost fainted when I saw the tag).
Nevertheless, if you are lucky and come at the right time you can get some gems. Whilst furniture isn't cheap it tends to be quality pieces and there are often beautiful tables and cabinets scattered around the store enticing you to buy them. Paintings are usually the best things to buy in Oxfam, on the odd occassion you can find original oil paintings of beautiful scenes like sea-scapes and the countryside selling from £10 - £40. The usual bric-a-brac is also a good place to start if you want to find a child's toy, collectible or a decent size vase for the flowers as they all start pretty low, the reason for this usually being that they get so many little bits and bobs from donations that they would need to clear the space for the others.
Overall I recommend future consumers having a good browse through the store but not to be easily enticed by the elegant surroundings when making a purchase, the prices have been raised quite a bit and although it is for a worthy cause, it shouldn't mean that they should be allowed to hold your purse hostage! The best idea for Oxfam would be to continue selling their own Fair Trade items alongside the second-hand goods (at a significantly reduced price) therefore allowing more items to be sold and more money given to those who need it most.
Thanks for reading
As a student and generally someone who openly looks for bargains of all types I am a fan of Netto.
My local Netto store is stationed in Acton (quite close to the 99p store) and is quite small for a supermarket. The general decor of the store is bright yellow which I suppose is meant to brighten up the general feeling when you enter the store as it can be quite a gloomy place sometimes.
As a general supermarket Netto sells pretty much everything concerning the kitchen, cupboards and fridge/freezer.
~ Fruit & Veg Section ~
The fruit and vegetable section is a shambles if I am brutally honest, I very rarely buy from this section as it is generally unkept and very messy, the vegetables are all strewn together in crates and in some cases, it is quite clear that they have passed their sell by date and can be found rotting in the corners. Not a nice sight or smell to behold and should be avoided at all costs!
~ Meat ~
This section is quite small in my local store but tends to stock a wide range of meat products like frankfurters, sausages, chops, steaks etc. They can all be quite expensive and it is quite rare to find a good deal here apart from on the frankfurters and gammon steaks which are much cheaper here than in other supermarkets.
~ Canned Foods & Pastas & General Cupboard Fillers ~
One of the best sections which Netto has to offer and predominantly where I tend to spend most of my time whilst shopping. The tinned tomatoes tend to retail for 8p a can and are really fantastic for when you want to stock up for those lazy bolognese dinners. The pasta is also very affordable and Netto stocks all kinds ranging from spaghetti, noodles to linguine for around 30p per 350g pack.
There are also multipacks of tuna, fruit cocktails and mixed tinned vegetables so you do have a good range of foods to choose from. The rest of the section is spent on what I would describe as general cupboard fillers like salt, flour, spices, sugar and more all of which are very cheap.
~ Snack ~
Next is the savoury aisle which is packed to the brim with fantastic little bargains and multipacks on famously branded sweets like Penguin bars, Mars Bars, crisps and cookies. A recent deal on an unbranded 250g bar of milk chocolate priced it at only 39p, considering that is usually how much a local cornershops retails one small 30g bar you are making a big saving.
I would recommend this particular section for anyone looking to buy cheap party food for birthdays or just having people over as there is so much choice and savings to be made. It is definately a highlight of the store but it can become quite crammed with a lot of people hogging up the aisles to grab a bargain.
~ Drinks ~
My local Netto has a pretty extensive drinks section covering about 2 aisles and cramming every type of drink under the sun within it. There are a lot of fruit juices, wines, carbonated soft drinks, beers and ciders on offer (some of them tend to be on multibuy which is even better for all who enjoy a tipple or two).
~ Everything Else ~
Whilst my store does sell a lot of dried foods it is exceptional when it comes to the dairy and freezer sections as these are jam packed with great deals on big brands like Muller and Chicago Town pizzas! As fish is generally very expensive I tend to buy most of my non-fresh fish products here like prawns and pre-baked scampi.
The yoghurt section is also a great way of finding cheap deals on big brands but Netto also retail their own brand yoghurts which retail at a measly 12p per pot and come in a variety of flavours including the ever popular strawberry and vanilla.
I haven't really noticed any other products on offer apart from ones related to food however I have seen perfume and expensive spirits being sold at the tills and kept in a pretty heavy bolted cage. For any gardening lovers out there Netto do sell seeds for plants and vegetables like tomatoes, cabbage amongst others and these are around 25p per pack.
~ Checking out ~
During weekends customers at Netto can expect massive queues due to parents completing their weekly shopping there. I would therefore advise anyone wanting to explore Netto without having to wait an hour to be served to either come during the weekdays (anytime before 3) or very early on weekends.
The checkout staff are very helpful and friendly and one of the ideas which I feel other supermarkets should introduce is having to pay for your plastic bag. 5p per bag (which is what Netto charge for a bright yellow sturdy plastic bag with their logo on it) ensures that a lot of customers really watch how many bags they use and it often ends up with a lot of the customers bringing in their own bags or trolleys to save money (and the planet ofcourse).
Overall I would recommend this store for anyone looking to buy on a budget or just save those pennies for something else, this is especially useful for students!
All major credit and debit cards are accepted at Netto, however cheques are not.
To find your local Netto store or just sign up for an email newsletter about the latest deals on offer just visit: http://www.netto.co.uk/internet/nettog/menu/main.nsf
Having studied French for my AS/A Levels it was inevitable that the only way to imrove my listening of the language would be through either listening to the radio or watching television. I am not a very big radio listener, however I do watch a bit of TV on both weekdays and weekends so why not make it educational for a change?
TV5 Monde is a French channel specialising in a wide range of programmes from cookery, documentaries as well as sports. It is accessible on Sky via channel 805 and I would compare it to BBC1 in terms of the types of programmes it offers.
~ Mornings ~
Weekday mornings are basically spent on current affairs and a special morning programme called Telematin which is like GMTV. As well as offering French news in 30 minute slots, TV5 also like to broadcast news from Canada, Belgium, Africa and Switzerland (predominantly from Francophone countries). The mornings are spent on educational pieces like D'Art D'Art and Un Livre...Un Jour but the real fun begins just before noon.
At 11.30am every weekday there is a fantastic little soap based in Marseille following a group of residents living through lifes little trials and tribulations, it is called Plus Belle la Vie and unlike our depressing soaps *cough* Eastenders *cough* tends to focus on happier and more intruiging storylines.
~ Afternoon ~
The afternoon's programming varies day to day however they do have a set of programmes with remain unchanged. The afternoon is spent mainly on quiz shows and topical documentaries. There is also a daily newsflash at 5pm lasting 20 minutes which summarises pretty much any important French and International current affairs.
To be completely honest, I don't watch much TV5 in the afternoon as it is quite dull during the weekdays, there are often several repeats of programmes and unless there is a film on, I tend to avoid it in the afternoon as much as possible. Although I do make time for the French version of Fort Boyard (despite the fact that it actually lasts 3 hours!!!).
~ Evenings ~
The evenings are dedicated to films, news and documentaries. One fantastic programme, Thalassa, is completely dedicated to anything and everything surrounding the world's seas and oceans. Although it is only shown on Tuesday evenings at 10.30pm (GMT) it does last for two whole hours and is fantastically filmed and educational, and often features little fishing villages in England that one wouldn't really know about before.
~ Weekends ~
The weekends are the best time to catch some good films, sport and just general entertainment. Around 90% of films shown on here are pretty recent (dating from 2000 onwards) and lasting only 1hr 30minutes usually. If like me you have seen quite a few french films in your time you will know that this is a blessing as most French films tend to drag on for ages however TV5 has done the smart thing and chosen films that can a) be watched in one go and b) be actually interesting! Also, for those who are learning French you will also be happy to know that 80% of the films shown have subtitles (wahey!) which makes the understanding of it slightly more easier!
As for sport, although it is rarely shown on TV5 live there are several 'emissions' which offer a catch up of the weeks football and general sports news and on the odd occassion that you get to see something live it ranges from Club Rugby to Judo.
Also, there are several special shows shown during the weekends in the evening which are aimed purely for entertainment. One such show was a charity event which was aiming to raise money for Aids lasting 4 hours packed with live music, juggling, circus acts and even some comedy routines. Although these are mainly promotional events, if you check the programmes now and then during the evenings you might be able to catch something just as fun on!
~ Kid's Channels ~
TV5 Monde doesn't really cater for children as much as it does for adults, the only dedicated children's programmes are very early in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday (which means you would be best to set Sky+ to record them for later). These programmes tend to be cartoons and one such animation is Blake et Mortimer which is slightly like Sherlock meets XFILES and is basically about two detectives based in London (see? they love us really!) who stumble upon secret societies and world's both set in the past and future.
Another delightful programme I would recommend to any child is the fantastic -C'est pas Sorcier- which is an educational show teaching children about anything and everything. For example the last show focused on the life of a cow in France and went through in detail everything there was to know about the different species, their daily life on a farm, the produce we make from their milk etc.
Each week our amusing presenters Frédéric and Jamy explore something new and their constant enthusiasm and different visual ways of describing and explaining the subject makes this programme a must see for kids and adults!
All in all, I would heartily recommend TV5 Monde to anyone looking to polish their French listening or just to enjoy watching programmes which offer so much to choose from. Whilst TV5 could do with some more live sporting events and a lot less repeats during the day, if you have a good look through you will spot some amazing gems on TV whilst also improving your French 'en meme temps!'
I have amended the review as my last one was taken from a magazine, this is my own salad and has no way been copied.
~ You will need... ~
~ One octopus (quite difficult to find in the supermarket so I would advise you to see a wholesale fish market), you will only really need the tentacles but the meat from the head of the octopus can also be used.
- One red onion chopped into slices.
- One whole avocado, please make sure that it is ripe and soft as this helps the flavours to be absorbed better.
- The juice of one lime.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- A generous helping of salt and white wine vinegar.
- Rocket leaves, available at any supermarket are great in this salad because it adds a little pepperiness to the whole dish.
~ Peparation ~
1. You will firstly have to wash the octopus if it has not already been done by the fishmonger. This involves removing the tooth of the octopus, cleaning each little sucker on the fish and cutting away the tentacles from the head. If you prefer to simplify this you don't have to use the meat from the head as it is quite a long and arduous process however if you still do, then only cut the top half of the head and throw the rest away.
2. Next, after thoroughly washing the octopus in cold water, place in a pot of boiling water and leave to boil until the greay octopus turns a pinky colour. This usually takes around half an hour, here you add some salt and pepper for seasoning.
3. Meanwhile, place the rocket leaves in a bowl and cut the avocado into chunks dispersing them over the leaves.
4. Next, to prepare the dressing use the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add two generous pinches of salt and the juice of half the lime along with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Mix well and leave to one side.
5. Returning to the octopus, drain away from the water and begin cutting the tentacles into bitesize chunks. Leave to cool slightly before placing them in the bowl of rocket leaves.
6. Finally, add the octopus chunks to the salad in the bowl, throw in the chopped onions, include the mixed dressing and lightly toss. If you want a slightly more spicier taste then add some more pepper although I find that the rocket tastes spicy enough.
And there you go! A nice and very healthy option for when you want to try something different and out of the ordinary. Don't let the fact that you may not have tried octopus before put you off, it is included in the staple diet of Portuguese and many Mediterranean countries!
Being a massive fan of bargains, it should come to no surprise that the 99p is obviously the best place to go to find them! My 'local' store is 3 miles away and although I don't have a car, I am more than willing to wait for a few buses knowing that in under an hour I will be browsing a store brimming with nick-nacks to satisfy every need.
The 99p store is the place for when you want to buy the little necessities for the house like washing up liquid, deodorant, kitchen utensils and more as well as being a general store stocking dried and canned foods, children's toys, electronic accessories, stationery etc.
My local store is located in Acton and isn't very large, to be perfectly honest there is barely enough room down the aisles for a person to walk through let alone mothers and their pushchairs being able to pass by. However, despite the area restrictions the store is very well organised into separate sections...
1. Right next to the main entrance is the Bathroom section where my local store stocks a wide range of toothpastes, toothbrushes, body lotions, deodorants, hair-dyes and cotton buds.
2. The next two aisles are reserved for items which fit a particular theme such as Halloween, Christmas or Easter and this section is pretty much comprised of special cards for these events or decorations for the house etc.
My advice to people looking to get decorations here is to over buy because the items are usually snapped up within a week.
3. Further down is the Kitchen section where you can buy plates, cutlery, knives, tupperware, pretty much anything you will need for the household. I find this section especially useful when planning picnics or days out as I am able to buy big bags of plastic cutlery and plates without forking (dya geddit?) out loads of dosh.
Also, there is a special aisle where it is possible to buy large kitchen rolls and accessories for washing up like liquid and bleach.
4. After the Kitchen section is the Food area which I would say encompasses around 30% of the total store area. Here you can buy tinned foods like Heinz beans, tuna or fruit cocktail mixes. There are also many dried snack foods like crisps, cakes, biscuits and chocolates to keep everyone happy.
Sometimes you will find the odd gem here, during my Easter trip to the 99p store I was able to buy 3 Ice Age 2 themed Easter eggs for my family. Although they were Italian products, the eggs cost me only £2.98 and on the tags it stated that they were actually 6 Euros each!
5. The Children's Toy section is also a great area for finding toys for children between the ages of 4-11. There is a fair amount to sift through and the aisles do get clogged up with toys all over the floor or children simply playing with them right there and then!
You have a wide range of toys from just simple cuddly animals to trucks, dress-up suits and dolls.
6. The final section and closest to the tills is the Stationery section which also links up with Electronics, Books, VHS/DVD & CD's for both PC and audio. This is probably the most popular section for people looking to buy gifts for birthdays or Christmas as most items are factory sealed. Although you do get random CD's or films that were released 10 years ago, on some occassions you can buy relatively new films on VHS like Pride and Prejudice (Kiera Knighley version).
~ Overall Opinion ~
I would heartily recommend this store for anyone wanting to find bargains for home, family or friends. My gripes are that you really have to come earlier in the day to be able to freely explore the store without having to fight for space against pushchairs or other people.
Also, the store (after the crowd comes in) can get very messy and stuffy. The staff are helpful when you have questions but the queues are a nightmare on the weekend and there should be more tills open in my personal opinion. However, if you consider that you are saving money on items which would cost you more than twice the sum in other stores, then I suppose you can't really complain?