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The Coke Auction promotion finally went live on Tuesday 29 August. After many tries I found that the site still hadn't been opened at 10am so I e-mailed to find out when approx they were opening. The reply said it was going to be late afternoon/early evening and to keep trying. I was logged in permenantly from about 5pm, and it finally worked around 6.45pm. However on getting into the catagories I found that most of the more expensive lots had already had maximum bids slapped on them, most of these items had closing dates of a few days to a week later (allowing time for higher bids to be placed once collected coke labels/ring pulls had been processed and allocated to accounts). There were quite a few lots of less valuable items that were closing at 10pm that same evening. At first it seemed not many people were biding on these items, however when I attempted to bid on a Web Cam I found that the system rejected my password, several attempts later it was still not having it, so I e-mailed for confirmation of my password. The automated reply confirmed it was correct, but on reinputting it, it rejected again. Out of desperation I went to my account to change the password if I could, it was here I discovered that the password must contain a Minimum of 6 digits, the one I had been preallocated was only 4 digits, it would let me access the site, but not bid for anything, and there was nothing to warn me that I should change it. When I was finally able to bid on items, I chose to bid 210 credits for a Harry Potter Book for my son. The system registered my entry at 210 , but when I checked my remaining account balance I found it had removed 300 credits instead. I was left with just 200 remaining credits to bid with and most of the remaining items had bids of just over this, so I was only able to go for a low bid magazine subscription. I e-mailed QXL who are running the promotion and asked them to sort out the incorrect debiting of the credits, bu
t they said that it would sort itself out if I was outbid. At five to ten I was still successful in my bid, but there was a sudden surge in the last few minutes where both my two bids on the book and the magazine subscription were outbid. With less than a minute to go I had the full 500 available credits in my account but there was nothing left to bid on. Upon checking the results for the Harry Potter book I was cross to discover that if the system had changed my bid on the book to 300 from 210, to match the number of credits it had removed from my account for most of the evening, then I would have been successful. Complaints to QXL were met with feeble excuses, and out of desperation I contacted Coca Cola with details of the problems experienced. I have to say I have been most impressed with Coca Cola. They have been excellent and are arranging for us to have a copy of the Harry Potter Book anyway, and they are conducting a thorough investigation with QXL. Unfortunately I couldn't regain access to the site to check what new lots are available as our ntl server was having problems, and then hackers got into the Coke Auction site and reset the highest bids at almost 10 million coke credits, so the site had to be taken down. Most of the Bargains will be obtained in the first week when there is a delay in getting the extra credits added to accounts. For latter additions you will need to have collected high quantities of labels/ring pulls in order to obtain the Hot lots. If you like Coke or don't mind switching from another brand then it is probably worthwhile collecting them, but be prepared to aim for a lower value item. UPDATE : 11 Sept Received a reply from cokeauction in response to complaints about the problems on launch night. QXL have acknowledged that I was disadvantaged due to the problems I experienced and by way of recompense have now offered me my choice of any top 5 books up to £100 in total. So it just goes to show that
it is certainly worth complaining!!! I have since gone on to successfully bid for 2 small items on the site, and it seems to be working fine now, it just seems to take longer than the 5 working days for the ring pulls/labels that you send in to get allocated to your account.
I love Guernsey!!! I fell in love with it 14 years ago when I went out there on a visit to see my sister who was working over there at the time, and I have been back many times since. I think it is a wonderful place to take young children for a good old fashioned holiday, lots of beaches, walks, and some newer attractions to keep them amused. None of those amusement arcades though!!! St Martin's is a good area for rented holiday homes, if you prefer hotels, St Peter Port or Cobo Bay has a good range, my personal favourite is the St Pierre Park, which has its own golf course, indoor pool, and has wonderful jazz evenings, not to mention the most delicious chocolate souffle -( for all those foodies out there!!!) St Peter Port has a good choice of restaurants, but as you usually find in such places, those along the harbour and marina area are more expensive, but the seafood is very good. I think the best time to go is in May, when the bluebells are out, it is usually sunny and uncrowded, even on Herm. Which is probably the best time to catch the boat out to this little island lying just off shore from Guernsey. There is a hotel and some self catering cottages, a small gift shop and a pub, and lots of wonderful walks over clifftops. Shell Beach with it's white sand (made from the tiny fragments of crushed shells washed up on it) is so idyllic. Guernsey has some excellent vat free shopping, loads of Jewellers shops, designer clothes shops, guernsey sweaters. But the best souvenir to bring home is some of the locally grown flowers. There is a good choice, not just carnations, freesias and daffodils, and as well as buying them from the side of the road, the nurseries, and shops, you can even pick them up at the airport. I always flew into Guernsey from Heathrow on Air UK, and especially enjoyed the panoramic view of the island as the plane decended. Hire a car and you can enjoy the full delights of the Island.
THe best place to get your designer kids clothes is from the USA. If you are going over there for a holiday or know someone who is (and they are prepared to bring stuff back for you) then you can get real bargains for a mere fraction of the cost over here. Names like OshKosh, Gymboree, Baby Gap. In the USA they always seem to be having sales too, and when they have a sale they have a sale. The price tag is halved, and then to clear stocks even halved again. I have had OshKosh tshirts for £2, Gymboree trouseurs for £5-£6 and we are talking 7-8 year olds here not babies. Some of the big cities have out of town Malls and there are usually factory outlets for these brands, my sister who works for an airline does most of my shopping for me, with Florida and Atlanta being particularly good for bargains. With Christmas looming, if you want to buy Christmas Presents for your kids, there are great savings to be made too, especially on Fisher Price and Little Tikes toys, depending which outlet it is bought from the saving can be almost fifty percent.
If you are pregnant then Next Directory is a must - it has a brilliant range of maternity clothes which are so much more stylish than most other maternity clothes around, and the selection gets bigger and better with each catalogue, including some nice and elegant evening wear for the christmas party season and some tailored workwear essential if the office dress code is smart rather than casual. The Newborn clothes range is really sweet with unisex white as well as the pinks/blues. Where they excel best is with the baby girl range - this has a wonderful choice of trendy outfits fitting from 3 months to 3 years. They also do a baby boy range which is also good, but doesn't have the OOHHH factor of the baby girls. Next have now extended their clothing range so that as well as the 3-14 year boy and girl selection, they now do a casual teens range for the style conscious 10-16 year olds. Next use to do a range of nursery equipment including cots and bedding, but seem to have discontinued it now, which is a shame - I bought a wonderful lime green checked gingham jungle animal quilt and bumper set when my youngest was born, their ranges were a refreshing change from the sameness of the Mothercare sets that everyone has.
I have used Blooming Marvellous maternity wear for all 3 of my pregnancies. The clothes are very well designed and comfortable (which is especially useful towards the end). My favourites were the breastfeeding shirts (2 or 3 of these are really essential if you are going to breastfeed and be out of the home a lot), and the skirts, which were great for work. A useful thing to know is that they also have regular sales where you can pick up some bargains, as some clothes can be a bit on the pricey side. There is also a range of baby products some of which are "good buys" that have been tested in parenting magazines, and some baby and childrens wear. I have found the children's slogan sweatshirts to be good quality. When my daughter was born I bought one that said "I'm a Big Brother" and my son wore it proudly until he had outgrown it. If you like the idea of matching Mother and Daughter outfits, they usually have a couple of co-ordinating items too.
AS a young child we went to Great Yarmouth for our holidays countless times, I can always remember it being very breezy and not usually hot. It was a long journey in those days of over 5 hours. Just recently we have moved house and find ourself within easy reach of Great Yarmouth for a day trip, so I thought it would be nice to go back and see how it had changed. These days a lot of the road there is dual carriage way,so it is quicker to reach, but it was still nice to look across the fields and see the Broads, although none of the boats seemed to have any sails anymore. On entering Great Yarmouth, I noticed that the Vauxhall Caravan and Camping park was still there,and it seemed quite popular judging by the numbers of people. There were still big queues going over the harbour bridge and towards the seafront. My Mother had been back there about 4-5 years ago and had commented on how run down it had got. Whether there has been some rejeneration since then, as it didn't look to bad to me, with the exception of the area past the Pleasure Beach which did. The Piers were still there, so were the Venetian Waterways, the Boating Lakes, Joyland,the Model Village, and the Hippodrome Circus. The horses and carriages still journeyed along Marine Parade, which was still lined with amusement arcades and chip shops. The Windmill Theatre is now a waxworks, and there now is a Sealife Centre, and Amazonia - which has an exotic display of reptiles, spiders etc...including a very lazy crocodile which refused to wake up. Gone are the beach huts though - still I go to Southwold when I feel in need of a bit of beach hut nostalgia. For children there are numerous Crazy Golf courses (we fancied the Pirate themed one - but it was too crowded), Trampolines,and Bouncy Castles. Parking was totally full up along Marine Parade (unless you have an Orange Badge), but there were plenty of car parks just off the front offering all day parking for £3-£4. There was st
ill masses of sand, which looked quite clean, a bit pebbly by the water's edge, but it wasn't litter and debris strewn. The only real disappointment was Pleasure Beach which personally I think is a bit run down and in need of a revamp. The toilets near the log flume were rather whiffy. For Pleasure Beach you have to buy tokens or a wristband which was about £8 - giving unlimited rides for the day. This was a bit of a pain having to keep changing money. One ride which looked really stomach churning and was just outside the Pleasure Beach was an ejector seat which was strung between cables and a bit like a bungy jump,and cost £16.50 per person, Maximum 2. It seemed like a lot of money for something lasting less than 5 minutes. Overall the Kids enjoyed themselves,it didn't break the bank too much, and it was nice to revisit and find not a lot had changed since my childhood. I wondered whether the Norwich Belle still made visits out to see the seals on Scroby Sands - but didn't go to the port area, so never found out.
Personal Recommendation is the best way of finding a suitable removal company - ask someone who has recently removed how it was for them. This way you will find out which is a good or a bad firm, sometimes the local ones are brilliant (our last removal company were fast, friendly and efficient) and by paying them cash for the job, you could save yourself pounds on the vat!!! I have heard countless tales about big companies who have for example loaded oily motorbikes next to rails of clothes, or had an accident in their storage facility dropping and breaking cases of irreplaceable personal effects. Before we had children we moved ourselves twice, hiring a van and collecting boxes from the supermarkets, and with the help of a couple of strong friends and a sack truck it cost considerably less than a removal firm, but we had considerably less things then when it was just the 2 of us. It is surprising how much stuff (toys in particular) you gain when you have kids. These days I think it is definately worth paying a firm to remove us, it is cheapest if you do your own packing and unpacking (they will supply you with the boxes and parcel tape). If you are moving locally you should be able to get a decent job done for £300.
Two years ago we relocated from one part of the country to another. As it was a company move and my husband's company were paying our relocation expenses, we had to do everything via their chosen corporate relocation company. The move involved us being given a guaranteed price for our house so that you can go ahead and buy another property without waiting for yours to be sold. However Rowan have to estimate the value (and this is often at a disadvantage to you being some £8-£10k below the market price). They do say that anything over this figure you receive, but our experience showed that if we hadn't been very actively involved in any negotiation with the Estate Agents (who we had chosen ourselves) then the property would have fetched £4000 less than it eventually did, and we would have been the losers. Luckily for us we had already had the house valued by several Estate Agents before Rowan became involved, as their "preferred" agents who we get the impression we would then have been forced to go with, were one of the lower valuers, who sell them quick, sell them cheap. So imagine what a loss you would make on a guaranteed price that was £10,000 lower than an already very low valuation figure!! We had to have their "preferred" removals company, and because our furniture had to go into storage for 3 weeks whilst the new house was being finnished,they went with a company that was near to them (and obviously on some sort of deal)despite there being a BAR member of the same group in our nearest city, that we had experience of ourselves, and new to be good. The ones we ended up with,had a bunch of big kids that were more interested in chasing each other around with water pistols, than packing our home into cartons. They packed the deep fat fryer in with our best curtains, and lost my husbands steps in their storage depot. But these were minor things compared to the pressure that was put on us to move out before our new home was c
ompleted so that our buyer could get in early. Rowan were suppose to be working to help us, but were so scared of losing a buyer that they caused us so much unneccessary grief. We have a disabled child, and I was pregnant at the time, yet I had to go and live at one end of the country and cope for 3 weeks with our 3 existing children, whilst my husband was at the other end in a tiny Bachelor flat. The stress this placed us under was enormous, Rowan totally disregarded our feelings, and we got the general impression that they would do whatever was necessary to save as much money as they could as it wasn't us but my husband's company who were paying their bill. However we did feel justified in complaining most strongly to my husbands employers about the way Rowan had dealt with us, in the hope that they would decide not to use them in future, and spare other employees what we had to go through.
We have been with the Abbey National for 10 years now, and have had 3 mortgages with them over this period. 10 years ago I was not very keen when the mortgage advisor suggested having them, we were with the Leeds at the time, and I had previously had experience of a remortgage to the Abbey National that had taken absolutely ages to complete. However this time it went through very quickly and smoothly. When we moved 2 years ago we went back to the Abbey to see what they could offer us, and got what was then a good fixed rate deal of 5.99, however it did have tie in penalty clauses, so when we moved 2 months ago we had to stick with the Abbey or pay the penaulty clause. We kept the existing fixed rate loan and had a second loan at discounted rate to tie in with the 3 years left on our fixed rate. At the end of this period we can then decide what we want to do. We have a mixture of endowment and repayments on our mortgage, which the Abbey will let you have. When the situation regarding the underperformance of the endowment policies is clearer, we then have the option of converting a further part of our mortgage to repayment if we want to. Personally if I was taking out a mortgage now as a first time buyer, I would definately steer clear of endowments and go for a straight repayment mortgage, you know where you are with that, and if you can pay off more, the mortgage is repaid sooner. We have had no problems at all with the Abbey National, unlike our last purchaser, who went with the Halifax, and there was nothing but problems with one mistake after the other, which in turn caused us problems over a mortgage retention for a unadopted yet section 38 agreement on the local authority adopting the roads on the newly completed estate - despite the Halifax having a signed agreement with the builders not to implement this (which apparently a lot of their staff were unaware about!!!) There is also much to be said about changing your buildings a
nd contents insurance from your Building Society, it may save you money in the short term, but if you have to make a claim, as we did on a previous property with a serious water leak that did quite a few thousand pounds worth of damage, some insurance companies do not handle claims as quickly and efficiently as others, Abbey National were very good, and very quick, which is more than can be said of our contents policy which at that time was with a different insurer, they nit picked, and delayed, and generallly caused us more grief than we needed. Needless to say we now have both Buildings and Contents with Abbey National - you get what you pay for in the long run!!!
Poets, Song Writers, Compers, all may benefit from help with finding the right rhyming word. There are several other much slimmer (and not much cheaper) rhyming aids on the market. But this in my opinion is the most comprehensive. The best place to start is in the back where there is an index of 239 pages of alphabetical rhyming words giving the group number or sub group number where you can easily locate other rhyming words. Here you will discover useful combinations such as Bulge/Indulge ( Slimming Products?) or Source/Sauce (Ketchup?). It is surprising how many rhyming combinations there will be that you hadn't even thought of, and it will certainly make writing those competition slogans a lot easier. My copy has been used so much it is really dog eared with both the front and back cover missing, so I can't tell you exactly how much it cost, around the £12 mark if I recall. They sell it in WH Smith's , but you may well be able to get it cheaper from one of the internet book sites.
This is just about the best product around for teething pain - and not just for your little ones!!! I can personally vouch for its pain killing properties, as when my wisdom tooth flared up it brought instant relief. The good thing is being a liquid it is soon absorbed into the gum and starts working instantly, no slidding off your finger or numb tongues. I have used it with all three of my children, especially when they were cutting their troublesome back teeth. Forget about Bonjela, it is not a patch on Anbesol. I still have some in my medicine cupboard even now - (along with the Brandy) as you can guarantee that toothache will always start once the chemist's closed.
In a nutshell - I bought this book to help me with my competition slogans which are not all they're cracked up to be, (often with serious room for improvement). Frequently I am lost for words where to begin, and what will do the trick or won't as the case maybe... Well there aren't many phrases that you can just pluck out of thin air, most will need to be adapted to iron out the wrinkles, to hone the finer points, so that the result is a sentence that cuts the mustard, with the right amount of wit, cliches, and aptness. I won't wax lyrical about how this book will be the answer to your prayers, but it may just give you a bit of a sporting chance, and for £9.99 (if you shop around) will give you the ins and outs of Idioms without leaving you out of pocket.
The answer to this depends on whether you have been lucky or not. For those that have (me included - I won a share of the £500 daily jackpot on Passport - £125) it is, but for those that haven't yet, it can seem a frustrating, boring, daily ritual. However it is worth persevering as you never know just when you are going to strike lucky, and what a feeling it is. If you happen to win over a Bank Holiday period like I did, be prepared to wait, as it was 4 days before Tombola confirmed my win and I knew exactly how many others were sharing the money. The cheque arrived within 3 days of it being confirmed though, so there is no long wait for money that doesn't materialise (as is currently happening on Jamba lucky letters). With regards to sharing -this can be a bit of a let down when there happens to be 8 of you and you only end up with £62.50 instead of the £500 you were antisipating. In practise this hasn't occured very often, usually it is shared by 3-4 people at the most. Everyone hopes for the 4 gold bars on I-scratch, but having to wait a week to find out how many others there are would be really nerve racking. Still it is a position that most of us would love to be in. There are a couple of linked games up there at the moment - I quite like the Lycos dog with his wagging tail and bark. However I am not too keen on the Vavo games - they haven't got a very large prize pot, which means sharers for the £5000 and just a handful of smaller prizes, plus the annoying thing for me is it never seems to download properly from the site, usually it jams up my pc and I have to shut it down and reboot everything up again. The other thing I have noticed is that if you play the games using IE5 you don't get the annoying - "sorry you haven't won this time" messages up when you are trying to get into the next game quite as often as you do if you use netscape. Just a small thing, but it saves a bit of time that you can de
vote elsewhere. If you have friends, do get yourself put down as their playmate, as you can get yourself £20 if they win (Pity it's not £200 if they get 4 gold bars though!!!)
Just after it was first launched I won a Whitney Houston CD from Blartly the so called Instant Win site. Instant it may be, but Instant arrival it certainly isn't! (despite being chased). After several e-mails, I was eventually contacted by the sponsors of the prize BorroworRob for my details, apparently there had been some sort of reorganisation. When it had still not arrived I contacted them again (on the pretext that there had been a server problem), and was eventually given an order number and told it would take up to 2 weeks to arrive. To my astonishment a few days latter I received an e-mail from them telling me my credit card had refused to pay out for the CD and would I send payment by an alternative means. Now they had never had my bank or credit card details anyway as it was suppose to be a prize, so why were they now trying to charge me for it before dispatching it? My reply to the sender was returned undelivered by the server, and the copy of the demand for payment forwarded to Blartly has been ignored. So do be aware that even if you do happen to get an instant win on the site - it doesn't necessary mean you may get your prize. I can't say I am impressed with Blartly or BorroworRob and on the strength of their customer service, I certainly wouldn't buy anything from either of their sites. Update 11 August 2000 - maybe someone from Blartly has read this - as just when I had written this prize off - it finally arrived in the post today. The cd case cracked - but who's complaining, it's here!!! Just goes to show that you should never give up on something - suppose I'll have to change my opinion now.
I have just received their new Autumn Catalogue. It is very disappointing to say the least - very boring and predicatable, with nothing that exciting that it jumps out from the pages shouting " Buy Me!". Clothes wise there is a lot of tight fitting wear that would probably look great on Kate Moss types, but not on everyone else. There is an extremely unflattering 18-30 size range that manages to make the models look as if they are wearing tents - so what potential customers would look like I dread to think. The look this season seems to be leather, sheepskin ,denim, tweed, tartan, sheers and velvets. The colours are very dull and uninspiring. To be fair, there is quite a good choice of knitwear in merino and cashmere, and some rather nicely cut tweedy trouseurs, together with long heeled boots in a good selection of colours. The lingerie has an exceedingly tarty range called salon rose - which they inappropriately describe as "sensual". Personally I am very disatisfied with the quality of their Knickers lately, what with trim coming off and the gusset stitching coming apart after just one wash, it does not bode well for them, especially as they have switched alot of their production abroad. The same can be said of their clothes that include Lycra or Tencel, where the fabric has worn into holes, or the seams have frayed open -we are talking about clothes not even 12 months old here. New for this year is their Nursery range - including cots, travellers and carriers from brand names such as Cosatto, Graco, Britax. Also a christening selection, which I think offers some reasonably priced gowns and rompers. The Baby and Toddler ranges are also good. Thumbs up for this section. Interiors is still stuck with the chintzy flowery 80's look for bedding and curtains.(Time for a major re-vamp in this area!!) Although teenagers may like the leopard/zebra animal print Duvet set at £45, matching curtains £50-£65, and t
able lamp at £30. For the Dinning Room this Christmas there is ready made Taffetta Curtains in a rich Mulberry £120-£200. Lots of rattan again - a good buy is the woven rattan wall baskets, at £18 for 3 they would have a multitude of uses (think toiletries, utensils, letters, plants etc...)