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Do you remember languages at school? When you missed one accent or word, or pronounced something incorrectly you were wrong. WRONG, no arguments, end of story and no marks for that answer. I did GCSE French and German and though I was quite good, I hated them and that was mainly because of us having no error margin. So, what could possibly make me want to go back to school 12 years later and put myself through all that again? Well, the embarrassment of being British was the main reason. We are the most ignorant nation when it comes to languages, expecting everyone else to speak English. The final push came whilst snowboarding in France. I found myself about to buy paninis and translating their contents signs to my non French speaking friends, before ordering them in English! How crazy is that? And I realised, that although I had spent 5 years studying French, and have a Grade A GCSE to show for it, it was useless as I darenâ??t speak the language! I needed to do something about it so decided I was going to try learning languages again, and this time with Spanish. I had a look through our local college prospectus and found myself an OCN Spanish For Beginners Course at a school near where I live. I soon convinced a friend to join me and we enrolled to start this January. Come January, Monday night was a school night, of sorts: We have Spanish class from 7pm until 9pm with a 10 minute break at 8pm! The course costs Â£70 for 20 weeks (a 30 week course starting last September would have cost Â£106 each) and I think I got my moneyâ??s worth in the first 10 minutes when our teacher explained that the point of learning a language is to communicate. It doesnâ??t matter if itâ??s spelt wrong, pronounced wrong or in the wrong order so long as you can make yourself understood. With that once concept, she gave me the ability to make use of 5 years of French and 3 years of German, and thatâ??s before I even started to learn Spanish!
If you think about it, you must have had a foreigner wave a cigarette at you and ask you for â??Fire?â?? before. Itâ??s happened to me lots and although it was amusing to me, I knew they wanted a lighter and gave them one. There you go, proof that itâ??s just about making yourself understood. The class at the start of the year had about 30 pupils. Now, three months later I'd say there are only 15 or so regular attendees (which seems a bit crazy when you've paid for the course!). The course is held in a local secondary school in an ordinary classroom, which isn't too different from how I remember them, although I never had a TV and video in each classroom! The syllabus for the 20 week course contains two basic units: one that teaches you to talk about yourself and your family, and the second that covers finding and ordering in shops and restaurants. Assessment is mainly done informally during the class, most of the time you don't notice the teacher ticking you off for certain items. We also have to record a conversation to tape but that can be redone until you are happy with it. As well as the initial cost, we were also recommended to buy a Spanish dictionary and a course text book: BBC Espana Viva which is Â£11.99. It is helpful to have the books, not only for homework and revision, but also if you have to miss a class you can catch up at home. The BBC book also covers units which we wont cover in class so the studious can further their studies. We were also given a tape which has the basics on and supports the course. This is brilliant to help with pronunciation, particularly in traffic jams! So far I have been really enjoying Spanish. It's a very phonetic language which makes it easy to learn, and also once you have mastered the alphabet, you can sound quite convincingly Spanish. As well as that it's good for the soul to keep learning, and know your grey matter isn't going to waste! My upcom
ing visit to Venezuela later in the year will be the true test! watch this space...
Q: How many times a year do you travel? A: Well, that really does depend. Last year mrblueeyedboyfriend and I bought a house and had no holidays but this year we have already been snowboarding in Courchevel 1850, France and we have two more holidays booked: a week surfing in Devon in July and 10 days backpacking in Venezuela in September! _______________________________ Q: For how long do you go away? A: Oh no, I gave that away in the last answer! Well we usually try to get at least a week in the summer. I used to always go for two weeks with missblueeyedflatmate but mrblueeyedboyfriend is a much more restless soul and bores of a place after a week...;) _______________________________ Q: Do you stay in your home country or do you go abroad? A: Normally I always go abroad, usually Europe. Iâ??m really looking forward to my travel plans this year as Iâ??ve never been to Devon or Venezuela. Iâ??ve also never surfed or backpacked but thatâ??s what 2004 is all about for me â?? new things! _______________________________ Q: Do you organise your holidays yourself or do you go to a travel agency? A: Both to some extent! Our snowboarding holiday was organised through an agent, Devon was booked by a friend and I have bought flights to Venezuela and booked accommodation for the first night! In the past I have often grabbed last minute deals from a travel agent â?? itâ??s definitely the best way if you need a sunshine holiday and donâ??t mind where you go. _______________________________ Q: Do you prepare your holidays in advance by reading guide books and studying maps? A: Of sorts, I tend to browse the internet for necessary information about a place but I donâ??t really like to spoil it too much. Having said that, Iâ??ve read a lot into Venezuela as we are visiting several places and going to a wedding whilst we are out there. There is quite an itinerary planned although itâ??s still flex
ible. _______________________________ Q: Do you travel alone/with family or friends/with an organised group? A: Oooh, I'd never travel alone! I'm far too much of a chatterbox and bad judge of character...;) My travelling companions usually change on a per holiday basis, France (snowboarding) was with a group of friends, including some SKIERS...;) My summer holiday to Devon will be with a different group of friends and my holiday to Venezuela is with yet another group of friends! Obviously mrblueyedboyfriend is usually a regular fixture. In act in 2002 we went to Greece with his entire extended family, whereas in contract in 2001 I went to Ibiza with only missblueeyedflatmate! ______________________________ Q: Do you prefer the sea / mountains / plains / cities as destinations? A: This is a very difficult one and also depend on the type of holiday in quesrtion. I think my answer is "variety is the spice of life"! __________________________________ Q: Do you mainly relax or are you an active holidayer? A: Again that's a tricky one but usually the holiday dictates that to me rather than vice versa. If I book a European beach holiday, I'm liable to lie around in the sun for the duration. Mrblueyedboyfriend is more of an activity addict than me so our holidays of late (and future) are all active ones! __________________________________ Q: If you go abroad do you learn at least some words of the foreign language? A: Funny you should mention that, I'm learning Spanish at the moment in preparation for Venezuela. However, in the past I haven't usually bothered. I wont go into detail, I'm saving that for my next op on learning languages! _________________________________ Q: Are you interested in the cuisine of a foreign country? A: Definitely! That's half the fun of going! I'll usually try anything once. Port
ugal was a heavenly place for me as I'm a huge seafood fan, whereas I found Germany far too porky for my liking! _________________________________ Q: Which means of transportation do you prefer? A: I prefer to fly, just for the sake of speed and freshness. Coaches drive me insane, as do long distances in the car, particularly when it's hot. I love being aboard a boat of any size, or riding a bike of any description. Roller-skates are always fun but I'm not too keen on scooters! _________________________________ Q: What kind of luggage do you take with you? Have you got problems packing? Do you tend to take too many / too few things with you? A: I have a hard suitcase, with wheels that is red, blue, green and yellow! It's not very big and is easy to spot at the airport! I also take the smallest possible bag I can as hand luggage, just enough room for passports and my purse usually! I tend to take more things than I wear but I never have trouble fitting them all in. Venezuela will be an education however as I'm borrowing a proper back-packing rucksack from a friend! _________________________________ Q: Do you send picture postcards to your family and friends? A: If I'm away for a fortnight I send postcards in the first few days but any shorter than that I don't bother. I hate that deflated feeling when you get home and your postcards haven't arrived yet!
I'll let you into a little secret, I'm not very nice to cameras. However, in return they are not very nice to me and my photographs don't come out very well. Mrblueeyedboyfriend thinks it is a waste to have a good camera until you have learnt about good composition and such, hence I don't have a good camera. Well. Not good in the expensive flashy sense of the word... I have a Fujifilm Nexia Q1 APS auto-focus camera, and what's more I'm quite partial to it! Father Christmas bought me the Q1 for Christmas 2002 after my last camera died a sorry death in Ibiza. I had seen a silver one in Debenhams which looks quite flash but wasn't what what I wanted. You see, I'm a little careless with cameras and one that looks like it might be worth stealing wouldn't stay in my possession for very long. Luckily Father Christmas spotted a suitably cheap and tacky metallic pink one in Boots! There are two further features that make this camera ideal for me: Firstly it's APS. APS film comes in little cartridges of 25 or 40 exposures, which you just drop into the slot on the base of the camera. That's it! No messing around winding film on and no worrying about exposing the film (APS cartridges can be removed half way through without damaging the film). This camera allows you to use 2 APS photo sizes: C - Classic which takes a normal 6"x4" photo H - Horizontal which takes more of a panoramic wider shot I find this to be one of the major disadvantages of this type of film as you can't have enlarged prints when you first have your film developed. Also, you have to pay attention as the C/H switch often gets changed in your bag. If like me, you're not in the habit of checking everything, it often means your nice close up of your friend ends up being a panorama of where they are stood! The second feature important to me is the auto-focus. You simply point and click the button on the
top to take the photograph, no messing! I can hear photographers all over Dooyoo up in arms about that, and I realise the auto-focus can often be a bad thing. I've come across it a couple of times when trying to take an extreme close-up of things, where the auto-focus fails me and aims itself at the wall behind etc. However, in the year I have had this camera it's been quite a rare occurrence and auto-focus is generally good for a beginner. The camera itself is very compact, and nicely shaped to sit in your hand. Indeed it's barely bigger than my palm and it's smooth contoured design makes it a pleasure to use. Be careful though as it's quite easy to get your finger in front of the lens if you use two hands. The casing is also quite hardy as mine is barely scratched after a year of being thrown around in the bottom of my bag! This little beauty also has a built-in electronic flash which automatically flashes if needed. The latest models also include a red-eye reducer which sets of a couple of smaller flashes prior to the one where the photograph is taken. Again, this probably isn't an advantage to an experienced photographer but it's great for me. The camera also has a motorised film advance (and roll rewind) which means I don't have to wind the film on myself! On the back there is a small LCD display which counts up the number of photographs you have taken. I am always confused as to whether that';s the remaining number of pictures or the number you have taken. That also wasn't helped as the counter itself has reset, for no apparent reason, on three or four occasions since I have owned it. Another bad point about the camera is the grey neck strap. It's quite thick and not removable (unless you were to cut it close to the camera but I think that would look messy). I have been known to wear mine, but only on occasions where (a) it matched my outfit or (b) I was too drunk to look after
the camera so a kind friend hung it around my neck! The battery is also worth a mention. Mine ran out on the 5th January this year (just over a year's use) which I think is great going! The camera takes one CR2 which is a lithium battery. At around Â£6.99 they are a bit more expensive but they last well. And finally the picture quality, and to be honest the pictures are OK. Probably good if I'm being generous but certainly not great. Having said that they aren't bad either. Realistically they are a little more what you would expect from the bottom end of the camera market. Overall it's a great little camera for taking holiday snaps and those sorts of pictures. Don't expect miracles from it, not even if you are David Bailey, and you'll get along just fine. At only Â£39.99 including a Fuji APS film and a CR2 battery, you certainly get more than your money's worth! * The camera now comes in blue, orange or silver.
Well, the answer is somewhere in between but before we get there, let me tell you a story...;) Mrblueyedboyfriendssister (my that was a long one!) bought me a little Charles Worthington gift set for Christmas and I can see exactly why! It appears to be the perfect gift for me... It came in a little pink toiletries bag, my favourite colour! To top it off not only was the shampoo and conditioner pink and gold, but it came with sparkly gold stylish products! Lavish, lovely and very very me! At least until I took it into the bathroom... I'll leave the other products alone as the grilling I'm going to give the shampoo should be plenty enough for one day...;) So I'll start with the bottle. Now my bottle is a different shape to the one on the category picture and indeed, this is quite a saving grace as those small flat bottles would take up a lot of room on the side of my bath whereas my bottles are taller and thinner - about the size of a normal Coke can - and they fit nicely in your hand. Maybe they are different bottles because they came in a gift set. The top has one of those circular lids that you depress at one side which in turn raises the dispenser bit at the other. I like these lids, they are a good idea as they are one-piece and easy to open and close thus preventing clumsy old me dropping the lid, spilling the shampoo as I try to pick it up, slipping on the mess... (you get the idea?) So Charles was doing pretty well so far but was about to hit the first hurdle: As I poured some 'heavenly hair wash' into my hand the texture worried me a little. It was very creamy and swirly looking, a bit like when you see bottle of nail varnish poured out in the glossy magazines. It's a nice look but not what I'd expect from a shampoo. A conditioner maybe, but not a shampoo. I usually like a clear one (Neutrogena Clean & Clear is my current favourite). However, I wouldn't have let a
silly thing like appearance put me of so I lifted the product towards my head, and then it hit me.... the smell! Charles' Heaven smells like strong old fashioned perfume that ladies of a certain age would wear. Maybe it's Estee Lauder's Youth Dew. It's definitely the sort of perfume that is dark brown in colour. Now, at first this is quite a glamorous scent but after only a few seconds it's a bit heady and too much! Finally I got down to the nitty gritty of actually washing my hair, and this help the biggest disappointment. In Charles' defence, it lathered well and the scent disappeared almost straight away, however, it didn't really clean my hair! Even after shampooing twice (I only ever usually shampoo once but I thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt) my hair didn't have that squeaky clean quality I achieve with Neutrogena. I did persevere for a few more days with the product but it really began to feel as though it was creating quite a build-up in my hair. For those that don't understand build-up here's a brief (and unscientific) explanation courtesy of my old hairdresser Katie formerly of the The Mark Hill salon, Kirk Ella:- Several shampoos on the market (Pantene being the prime offender) claim to improve the condition of your hair, and in the short term they do. They do this by coating your hair with a layer of silicone* so as your hair feels smooth and lovely. It's a similar effect to varnishing a wooden table. Now imagine that you keep applying layers of varnish to that table, and leaving it outside in all conditions. Pretty soon they layers will begin to split and peel, often damaging the wood beneath as it strips the natural oils away. Well, that's exactly what build-up does to your hair and that's why it's important to use a build-up remover shampoo once a week if your regular shampoo is silicone* based. In summary I'm
afraid the answer is far closer to hell than the bottle would lead you to believe and therefore Charles Worthington's Heavenly Hair Wash gets a big thumbs down from me! Far from creating Dream Hair, it gave me a minor nightmare! It seems that too good to be true sales pitch about 'smart' cleansing is indeed too good to be true! * I did say this was an unscientific explanation, so forgive me if it isn't actually silicone. I think itis a silicone-based derivative in truth, but the manufacturers don't really advertise that fact much so it's hard to find out! Please comment if you know more!
Q: When did you join dooyoo? A: Oh my Lord! An age ago so it seems but accoding to my profile it was the 12th July 2000. _______________________________ Q: How did you discover dooyoo? A: Catatonic told me about it (I knew her from Beenz if anyone remembers those!), mainly so as I would read all of her reviews as far as I recall, but I was soon hooked! I did once see an ad for Dooyoo on the tube but that was ages after I had joined. _______________________________ Q: Why did you join? A: *hangs head in shame* For the money! I used to be an avid Beenz collector as I loved ordering CDs with my points. As Beenz declined I needed to find another way to keep expanding my CD collection! Dooyoo seemed a much more rewarding and I soon found I was writing informatively for fun rather than money. _______________________________ Q: What was your very first opinion on ? A: Lipcote! I was so angry about the fact it had dried my lips that I felt I had to tell the world! I then followed it up with some nastiness about Mika Hakkinen because I HATED him, and a rave about predictive text input because I loved it! All three were utter drivel to be fair...;) ______________________________ Q: Did you find it easy to get the hang of dooyoo? A: Well, as youâ??ve already noticed, most of my reviews are driven from a strong emotion about the subject, so it took me a while to get over ranting and onto being informative. Constructive comments always helped me to see where I was going wrong or, eventually, right. It was a good few weeks before I wrote a review that I can look back on now and not be ashamed of! ________________________________ Q: Did you read other opinions before you posted your first one? A: Yes! I read nearly all of Catatonicâ??s and her brotherâ??s. ________________________________ Q: Do you write no/some/many comments? A: Hmmm, tricky one that. I only us
ually comment if I have something worthwhile to add to the review or the discussion. However, I am guilty of the odd nothing comment to say hello to someone I havenâ??t seen around for a while. _______________________________ Q: When you click on the list of Newest Reviews, do you read your friends' opinions no matter what they're on/according to subject no matter who has written on it/preferably the opinions of new writers? A: I donâ??t get here as much as I like anymore but it depends on the purpose of my visit... You see, quite often I arrive here and read reviews about a place or a product because Iâ??m interested or about to buy etc. If I come here to kill a bit of time, I usually read ops from my circle of friends as I know they are enjoyable writers. I suppose the only ones I actively avoid are people with multiple entries in the Newest Reviews list â?? from experience I find they are often bunches of drivel like I used to turn out! ________________________________ Q: Do you write your opinions in one sitting? A: *hangs head in shame again* I very rarely write at all anymore but thatâ??s due to time, not money! However, I do usually spend at least a week writing and rewriting an opinion so maybe three or four sittings.... This one has only taken two up to here...;) ________________________________ Q: How often do you post a new opinion? A: Not very often at all. I usually have a month where Iâ??ll get a couple of opinions done then I donâ??t get chance to do one for another couple of months. ________________________________ Q: Do you use a spell check? A: Yes, always! I write my opinions in the notes section of my email program â?? tha way they are always to hand if I get a spare five minutes. ________________________________ Q: Do you think you can improve your chances to get a crown if you suck up to a guide? Oooh touchy subject. Is this where all the elit
ism accusations come out? Only kidding and no, I donâ??t think you get a crown by sucking up to a guide. I do think though youâ??ve got a better chance of getting a crown by a) writing a genuinely worthy opinion b) reading lots and making lots of friends: that way more people are likely to see your opinions and nominate them. ________________________________ Q: Are you a member of a forum or a chat room? A: Not a Dooyoo one. Iâ??m often of the forums at loquax though. ____________________________________ Q: Does it get to you when members praise or condemn you? A: One member who shall remain nameless really got my goat by sending me an email ranting on about how f****** s*** one of my music opinions was. Why he didnâ??t just leave a comment god only knows. Anyway, I sent his eloquent prose back to firstname.lastname@example.org and they shut his account down. Shame...;) ____________________________________ Q: What did you do in your spare time before you joined dooyoo? A: Hunt beenz! ____________________________________ Q: What do you wish for the future? Iâ??d love dooyoo to look into optimising the site for Mac users. Itâ??s painfully slow using Safari or IE 5.2 which means I donâ??t get to read half as much as I would like. I donâ??t hold out much hope though, as I know they have far more pressing issues like the loss of capital letters etc. By the way MRSCANADA, if youâ??re reading, I canâ??t access the page you gave me to fix it either. The world is against Mac peeps...;) ____________________________________ *** Please don't take this challenge to ciao without asking MALU, she'd rather decide herself what to do with a text she's written, when to take it there or if at all. Thank you.***
Well, that's not strictly true. It would be more accurate to say "it's not usually as Dull in Hull as it would be in any location further west or north of Hull" but that probably wouldn't fit on the tourist board's t-shirt. Anyway, back to the point, why would I want to tell you about a place that 12 other writers have very successfully covered nearly every aspect of? Well, there are 2 reasons... 1) I have found something important that hasn't been covered and 2) Being a born and bred West-Hull-Villages girl, I think I'm very qualified to tell you about it. Now, I mentioned this was important, as this is because you will need to know this in order to survive in Hull! You see it probably has something to do with Hull being a bit of a backwater, which in turn probably has something to do with the fact that Hull is the end of the line - literally. The end of the M62 and the last stop on the train line (although Arriva have usually swapped their train for a bus long before it reaches Hull) have all contributed to this bizarre fact. You see not a lot of people know this but most of the locals don't speak English! No, it's true! Well, not English as you or I would know it. No, their version of English is the lesser known dialect of 'Ull. Now before you panic, it's OK! I'm fully fluent and I can teach you! In fact up until only a few years ago 'Ull was my first language! That's because I was a 'lercal' and now I live in Sheffield and can't get away with Hull vowels. And there, is your first and most important lesson. In Hull the vowel for almost everything is an 'er' sound. In case you missed it I said lercal but I meant local... You see somewhere in the depths of times past, Hull lost most of it's other vowel pronunciations. So, let
's practice. Pull yourself a frown, think rain and misery and grunt "herler". That's the way! And can you guess what that meant? Yes? You at the back in the red t-shirt? That's right! It's "hello". The 'o' sounds are usually the worst offenders. Say you were popping into one of the local water holes for some refreshment you would fit in perfectly by ordering a 'Bercerdi 'n' Kerk'*. Obviously though if you would prefer Pepsi as your mixer do specify the brand name. Also, one of my favourite is "Er ner!"* which is usually cried in horror when things go wrong! Now don't start running before you can walk though as the Hull Vowel is only a general rule of thumb. It does work in most instances but sometimes you can get caught out. For example if you mentioned a 'serfer' to an 'Ull speaker, they are not very likely to offer you a board and point you in the direction of the sea. In fact they are far more likely to brand you as 'posh' and offer you a spot on their settee. Ser*, there you 'av it and jolly good luck to you all! * Kerk = Coke, Er ner = Oh no!, Serfer = sofa, Ser = so
No, itâ??s not my funny accent, I said Waste. As in waste of your time, money and effort. That just about sums up Telewest. It all happened because I was sulking with BT. I hadnâ??t fallen out with them as such, itâ??s just that Iâ??d ordered my moving day service online (as youâ??re supposed to) but hadnâ??t been contacted by them, and when I rang them up they said they had no record of it and couldnâ??t come out to me for 3 weeks! I thought Iâ??d teach them a lesson, what a fool I was. I called Telewest and spoke to the most efficient lovely lady in the world â?? Margaret was her name. As you tend to find in these companies, the sales people canâ??t help you enough. We had already decided to opt for the Talk Evenings & Weekends plan, which means we would get unlimited local and national calls every evening from 6pm and weekend for a fixed monthly price of Â£17.50. Margaret delightedly informed us that we qualified for free cable TV for a year. I couldnâ??t believe my luck as she arranged for the engineer to come and install it the following week! Well installation day came round and as they were coming between 2pm and 6pm, mrblueyedboyfriend had taken the afternoon off work. At around 9:30am I received a call on my mobile from the engineer informing me he was at my house. Surprised, I pointed out that he was supposed to be coming in the afternoon. He said he realised that but he didnâ??t have any jobs in the morning so he thought he would do it early. I informed him he would have to come back that afternoon so just to teach me he turned up at 5:58pm. He proudly told me we were getting a brand new digital box and that these ones donâ??t crash. Admittedly, this should have flashed a warning sign but I was still blissfully excited. About 10 minutes after the guy left the screen froze. I called Customer Services, who told me to turn off the power to the box, then switch it back on again. It crashed again about 5 minutes aft
er that, and as I was watching BBC1 anyway, I decided to turn the TV over. What greeted me was a crackly screen, somewhat like I didnâ??t have an ariel... A few minutes careful investigate proved just that, that the engineer had removed the ariel cable and cut it off at the wall making it unusable! Many arguments with customer services happened following this discovery. Telewest reckoned they werenâ??t responsible for the TV ariel, despite the fact that their engineer had removed our ability to use it! Two later they eventually sent an engineer back to fix it. Not long after that we received our first bill and I noticed we had been charged Â£3.50 per month for our â??freeâ?? cable. We were also charged Â£2 for not paying by Direct Debit, even though we had not been given the chance to set up a Direct Debit when we ordered, or informed we would be charged for not doing it! Again I called Customer Services. After being passed around two or three call centre staff, I was informed that the only person that could sort in out was Margaret, and (surprise, surprise) she wasnâ??t in. The promised to get her to call me within the next few days. After a week of hearing nothing I called them again. This time the operator told me that they werenâ??t offering free cable in August. After much argument and a couple more passings around the staff I was told I needed to pay that bill in full and they would take the money off our next bill. Three weeks later our next bill arrived and guess what? Not only had they not refunded the Â£7 from the previous monthâ??s bill but they had charged us Â£3.50 again for this month! Again I called them and they said I should pay the bill in full and they will take it off our next bill. Iâ??m not going to hold my breath! In fact, I wouldnâ??t mind but the channels they are charging us for are the channels available on a freeview box for nothing anyway! With our second bill was a promotion
al advert for Blueyonder - their broadband service. mrblueyedboyfriend and I both work full time and rarely use the Internet at home so our internet calls cost much less than Â£10 per month. At least they did until that day. Strangely after we received the ad, our phone line began to mysteriously cut out. We have a small app which allows you to hold the internet line for call waiting, and it began to kick in after around 5 minutes online, but not be able to hold the line. I got annoyed with it and switched it off. Now the phonecall just drops out after exactly 5 minutes. I know itâ??s not Freeserveâ??s fault. Of course, Telewest say itâ??s not theirs either... The final straw was when I had a look at the Contract, which has has us tied in until August 2004 (12 months - like a mobile phone contract). At least that gives BT plenty of time to make an appointment to come out!
Hello again! It's nice to see you all, but I must admit it's nothing compared to my fancy weekend at the Mollington Banastre! Let me tell you... AS some of you may have gathered from my last review, I have been spending a lot of time entering competitions of late, as opposed to writing reviews, and it has turned out to be a particulalry profitable hobby, but enough of that. All I really want to tell you is that my weekend of luxury at the Mollington Banastre was indeed a prize. So, on Friday 12th August, mrblueeyedboyfriend and I loaded the car and headed for Chester. Firstly I must praise the map and directions provided on the Arcadian Hotels website (http://www.arcadianhotels.co.uk/mollington-banastre/). There was also information available from the hotel's own website at the time but that since seems to have disappeared. The only criticism I would have of the website is the picture of the hotel, which is actually a rear view and incredibly looks very different from the square brick front which greets you as you pull into the car park. The car park is quite small but had enough room for us and probably a few more, and parking is free to hotel guests. The hotel is only 2 miles from Chester, although there is nothing around the hotel itself at all (apart form a hotel run bar in the front car park) and it resides on a busy national speed limit road so walking wouldn't be much fun. It does however have beautiful grounds to the rear of the hotel and apparently welcomes pets (although I'm sure mrsgreeneyedcat wouldn't have liked the journey!). Reception is immediately to the right as you walk in the front doors and we were checked in promptly and efficiently by their friendly staff. We were able to order morning newspapers to be delivered to our room, book a table for our evening meal (just a formality as far as I could see) and request a wake-up call for the morning. The also sell discounted
tickets for local attractions at the reception desk so we were able to save £2 each off the entrance fee for Chester Zoo as well as guaranteeing priority entry without queuing - well worth doing! Our room was incredibly chintzy but in a homely sort of way. It wasn't huge but had a lovely double bed, bedside tables, a dressing table and a wardrobe (hangers included). We also had a private bathroom which was spotlessly clean, tastefully decorated in white and gold tiles and full size Molton Brown shampoo, shower gel and hand cream! There was also a polite notice asking you not to steal them before you get any ideas, but you can buy them for £9.50 each from the reception. Also we were left a lovely big fluffy white dressing gown each next to the bed, which were massive but ever so soft! We were provided with all the standard hotel room bits and bobs such as tea, coffee, mineral water, biscuits, soap, shower cap etc. although somewhat surprisingly there was no toothpaste. Luckily mrblueeyedboyfriend has sensitive little pegs so had packed his own! Our room looked out over the gardens to the rear of the hotel through a giant floor to ceiling window. However, there were no nets so if you wanted to get changed you needed to draw the curtains for privacy which were think and lined and immediately plunged the room into complete darkness! Next we decided to check out the complimentary health club and the gym in particular. To gain access you fill out a short form at the gym reception then you are given your hotel towel and free use of the facilities. The health club has a small pool with Jacuzzi then there are saunas accessible through the changing rooms - mixed or not, you choose! the gym is fully air conditioned and well spaced out with plenty more equipment than it needed for the few people in there! It had a full range of anaerobic equipment, weight training machines and free weights, plus a matted area for stretching. The
machines themselves are probably around 4 years old but are well maintained and in good condition. There are also TVs you can watch whilst exercising if that's your kind of thing! After an hour or so in the gym we had managed to work up an appetite so next stop (after a shower and change) was the Garden Room restaurant. The restaurant as it's name suggests looks out over the beautiful rear gardens and is quite formal in dress and etiquette. Guests wait in the hotel bar until their table is ready and to pass the time are served the most exquisite canapés and the equally fantastic menu! The menu is split into two parts: firstly there is the set menu which changes daily and offers you a choice of 3/4 meals for starter, main and desert. The cost of this menu is included in the price of your stay but you can offset this value against the A La Carte menu which truly has to be seen to be believed! We ordered our meals from the bar and after a short wait, the maitre d' showed us to our table and immediately served us out starters, which in my case were the two biggest prawns you have ever seen in your life! Everything we ate over the whole weekend honestly tasted like heaven. I like to think I'm a bit of a fancy cook but I had never tasted flavours so delicate and intense at the same time. Even breakfast was a joy! You could order particular items from a menu such as kippers or pancakes and also has use of the breakfast buffet which offered all the cereals you could imagine, every type of fruit juice you could image, croissants, bread rolls, European cold meats, cheese and as if that wasn't enough a full English breakfast! There was a wedding at the hotel on the Saturday which was fun to watch but unfortunately the evening meals had suffered slightly in quality. However, they were still fantastic, just not as mind blowing as the previous evening. Overall I loved my stay at the Mollington Banastre and
I would definitely go back there. I wouldn't say it was fantastic value but if it's relaxing luxury you are looking for you can't go far wrong here.
Guess who's back... Back again... Missbrowneyedgirl's back... With her Jukebox Zen! Hello everyone! I haven't been too far away and I've still been reading here, I just haven't been inspired enough to tell you any tales. Until now that is.... Now, those of you who remember will, will know well how much I love music in most way shapes or forms and particularly on MP3. Now imagine my delight at the thought of a portable MP3 player with a 20Gb hard drive on it. I could nearly fit my entire CD collection on it. OK, I couldn't but it's not their fault I'm a CD addict! Hang on, I'll back track a bit. For those of you who need a basic explanation (I'm normally first in the queue for one of these) the Zen is kind of a walkman but instead of using a tape you load music into it's memory as .mp3 or .wma (Windows Media Audio) files. In Layman's term let's say an average mp3 track is 4Mb in size. That means that you can fit approximately 5000 tracks on a 20Gb hard drive! Can you see why I was getting excited now? That's over 400 albums in my pocket, at all times. I nearly wet myself thinking about it! So now you're wondering what am I going to do with it aren't you? Well as I said you can use it as a Walkman, just plug in the headphones that come with it and off you go. And there we hit the first problem. The headphones that come with it really aren't very good. They are the sort that cover your whole ear, with a bar that goes around the back of your head, hooking over the top of your ears for support. Personally I find it a bit uncomfortable and the bar isn't adjustable so where the headphone are too large stick off the back of my head (very uncomfortable if you try to lean against something), the barely fit on Mrblueeyedboyfriend's shall we say larger head. However, this is a minor problem as I rarely use the Zen as a walkman. More often than not it
's plugged straight into my car stereo via a dummy tape (around £15 from Dixon's along with a car charger) and this is where is really comes into it's own, that is unless you are. To use the Zen, you use the screen on the front of the player and a small scrolling wheel on the top right which also clicks in as a button. This lets you navigate through a set of menus which go a little something like this: Main Menu ~~~~~~~~ Music Library - your stored MP3s Now Playing - the current playlist Find Music - a poor search function EAX Audio - equaliser settings W. Remote Recording - you need additional hardware to use this Jukebox Settings - machine settings Button Lock - stops you from hitting stop whilst it's in your pocket Now to be honest with you I don't use any of these options except for Music Library and Now Playing. Predictably enough, selecting 'Now Playing' displays the list of tracks currently playing on the screen. You can toggle between a full list or the current track details by pushing a small button on the left side of the player. Now just imagine you're driving and switch it on with the button on the left. You have to hold it down but not for too long or else it will switch itself back off. Watch the road, don't stare at the screen! Now scroll down twice and click on 'Now Playing'. Oh no, the wheel slipped as you clicked, you're in 'Find Music' now. Do you get the picture? It's fiddly, annoying and almost impossible to work with one hand, and that's just to see what you're listening to, never mind choose something! To be fair though you shouldn't be using it like that whilst driving, and generally I don't. I have a playlist (I'm coming to that) and that starts up automatically when I switch it on (usually before I start the engine). You can set it up to automatically show the track playing within the Juke
box S ettings option. The other main function is the Music Library which is where your tracks are stored. Clicking this gives you the Music Library menu which allows you to browse music via: Music Library Menu ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Playlists Albums Artists Genres All Tracks Recordings Entering any of these options gives you an alphabetical list of everything within that section. To play it you scroll through, click on what you want then you are presented further options of Play Now, Add To Play (adds to the end of your current playlist), Open (e.g. to browse through the tracks on an album) or Delete. Now lets go back to that 5000 track figure. Can you imagine opening All Tracks then scrolling through a list of 5000 to choose a few you want to listen to? Time consuming could be an understatement! Luckily you don't have to. Zen comes with the Creative PlayCenter - software which allows you to add, remove, and organise your mp3s from your PC. And therein lies the next problem. The software is almost as clumsy as using the player and the jukebox can only be managed using the software. This roughly translates as you can't use it on a Mac, or even on other people's PCs unless you carry the install CD around with you! Why they couldn't make the Zen an external plug and play drive, I will never know. If Apple's iPod can be used on a PC.... And that's what it comes down to. The Zen is an expensive but poor version of iPod and at nearly £100 more than it's Apple equivalent, it isn't even half as good. If I had paid for it, I'd have been very disappointed. As it was, I won it so I'm not quite so miffed! Don't get me wrong, there are really good points to the player. It's about the size of a cassette box and weighs less than my cassette walkman! It also comes with a black plastic protective case which looks very cheap and tacky but has a usefu
l Velcro b it on the back which allows me to stick the player to my passenger seat (this is essential if you drive like me and want the player to last more than 5 minutes!). It comes with a mains charger (as expected) but also, cleverly, will charge up through the USB port on your PC. Again this is only after you've installed the software though. On the plus side it does have around 12 hours playback time but it doesn't give you any audible warning that the battery is low until it simply stops playing the tracks! Come on Creative, if our mobile phones can do it I'm sure it wouldn't take too much technology to sort the Zen out. For those of you who need the technical nitty gritty, the full specifications can be found on Firebox.com: www.firebox.com/index.html?dir=firebox&action=product&pid=497 There is also a user forum. offering support and additional software, at Www.nomadness.net Zen = enlightenment by meditation. God only knows where they got the idea of naming it Zen!
I was wondering how to write this without sounding bitter and twisted. You see I made a mistake at the weekend. I let mrblueeyedboyfriend go to the video shop (By the way, why do we still call them video shops when the mainly rent DVDs?) with his male friends to choose our viewing pleasure. They came back with Heartbreakers. I had never heard of it so I enquired as to the nature of the film. After much umm-ing and ahh-ing it came to light that no-one really knew what the movie was about but that a certain Ms Love Hewitt had been cheekily (or more accurately scantily) adorning the cover and that alone had sold it to them! I should also imagine the film's Tagline 'Caution: Dangerous Curves Ahead' had something to do with it! Now I don't really have anything against Jennifer, in fact I thought she was brilliant as Sarah in Party of Five. I'd even say I admired her ability to turn most of the males I know to jelly at merely the mention of her name, never mind a glimpse of her self! However, I wouldn't have picked an almost unheard of, bad looking comedy from the shelf for the sake of watching her form for the evening. I guess that's just the kind of girl I am! However, the presence of Sigourney Weaver (looking very fetching and most unlike an alien hunter) an Gene Hackman tipped me in the favour of suffering the boys' appreciative moans and trying to watch the film! Now I'll try and explain the plot to you without spoiling things, but what exactly there is to spoil I'm not sure. In case you haven't realised yet, my advice is to avoid this one at all costs! David Mirkin who also directed the appalling Romy and Michele's High School Reunion directed the film. Be warned this is no coincidence! The basic plot goes like this. Weaver and Love Hewitt are a mother and daughter team that live the high life by scamming half of a man's riches in a divorce. Weaver marries them then 'catches
' them in compromising, and wholly set-up, positions with Love Hewitt, divorces them and the girls split the cash! The reason I am using the actresses real name is because they change their names throughout the movie in order to pull of their scams. Weaver is Angela and some fake Russian monstrosity called Ulga whereas Love Hewitt plays Wendy, Paige and Jane. Confused? Oh you haven't heard the half of it! I assume the film would fall under the category of Romantic Comedy and f you place an 'American' in front of that you have just about reached my worst nightmare in film genres! Why ever Sigourney Weaver agreed to this one is beyond me. I have a theory it was because she doesn't often get offered 'sexy' roles and she has to take what she can get! So back to the wafer thin plot, Love Hewitt has decided she is old and wise enough to go it alone whereas mum (Weaver) really isn't so sure so pulls a scam whereby she pretends they owe money to the IRS. They decide on pulling off one last scam together to pay off their debts and then going their separate ways which is where Gene Hackman comes into it. Hackman plays the eccentric chain smoking William B. Tensy who is, you've guessed it, a rich old man and the latest object of Weavers hidden agenda. Hackman does his best to pull this film back as does Ray Liotta but to no avail. It's far to far down the toilet! Now don't get me wrong, there are funny bits to this film. It is peppered with the odd bits of toilet humour and slapstick. Unfortunately the main body of the film is badly acted romantic drivel and predictable story progressions. I can truly say it is the worst film I have seen in years and to add insult to injury, it is so long! It must have been on for nearly two and a half hours, by which point even the boys that chose it in the first place were fed up of it. Whether this says anything about Jennifer Love Hewitt's limite
d appeal remains to be seen! The most interesting part of the film for me was when Patricia Belcher appeared as the hotel maid and I spent a good twenty minutes trying to remember where I had seen her before until I recalled that she played Giselle (the psychic) in Jeepers Creepers. The DVD Extras had an interview of Love Hewitt looking bizarrely like Ally McBeal, some stills of the film and some other uninteresting looking items that we didn't even bother with! The boys did manage to pause the film on Jennifer's fall (down the roadside embankment) and then we all argued for several minutes as to whether they were her pants or those of a stunt man or woman! Americans have billed this as 'One of the funniest comedies of the year.' but that's the American sense of humour for you! In all seriousness give this one a VERY wide berth. Even if you are a Love Hewitt fan it's appalling! (2 ops in a day- that hasn't happened for ages!)
Oddly enough, Sheffield's Millennium Galleries were a Millennium project. Situated on Arundel Gate in the city centre they form a part of the 'Heart of the City' regeneration project. This project has also seen the demolition of the Eggbox (Sheffield's 60s town hall - see http://www.bbc.co.uk/southyorkshire/talk/eggbox.shtml), and has led a friend of mine to say that he doesn't feel like he's in Sheffield when he's in that part of the city. He has lived in Sheffield for all of his life! But I can see what he means as that half of Arundel Gate has a very new and cosmopolitan feel to it. Anyway, to cut a long story as short as I can (which isn't very short as you probably know!), after being seduced by a poster depicting a Star Wars Stormtrooper, my friends and I decided to pay the Galleries a visit last Saturday. The Galleries don't have exclusive parking facilities as such, but being in the town centre there are plenty nearby. Probably the most convenient and available is the NCP car park on the opposite side of Arundel Gate but beware, it is fairly expensive. The Galleries themselves reside in a very impressive looking glass building along a white pathway, scattered with trees and reminiscent of being in faraway lands. After being in awe for a while, and taking a few snaps with my L'espion, we ventured towards the circular sliding entrance. As I mentioned, the main reason we were there was for the current feature exhibition: the British Film Institute presents moving pictures. This travelling exhibition is running at the Millennium Galleries until May 19th - more information can be found at http://www.bfi.org.uk/movingpictures. The posters, which had tempted us, also depicted Zippy & George from rainbow and one of Dr Who's Daleks, and lo and behold this self-same Dalek silently greeted us immediately in the entrance of the building. I'd have like to get a little closer to him but th
e imposing presence of the nearby security guard kept my fingers in my pockets...;) The whole building is very light, airy and quiet for a Saturday afternoon! The actual Galleries are all up the escalator opposite the entrance so up we went. Arriving on the next floor we found a selection of glass cabinets containing Harry Potter's school uniform, the original Stormtrooper costume and a dress from a film (so uninteresting I can't recall which). Next you pay and enter the Special Exhibition Gallery, which is divided into small areas. Firstly the entrance area has original film posters including Jaws, The Full Monty, The Sound of Music, Billy Elliot and Vertigo to name but a few. These images are all quite familiar and not of any real interest to me although I was captivated for a while by the large screen showcasing snippets of films. This sparked of a bit of a competition between my friends of who could guess the film title first for each snippet, and the resulting amusement was worth the entrance fee alone! The next section is time based whereby the display cabinet contents take you from early cinematography machines and peep show boxes right up to Russell crow's gladiator outfit. Text on the cabinets describes each period in film, with screens showing more snippets of the time on the front of each cabinet. One in particular has Marilyn Monroe's dress from Some Like It Hot which can be seen on the lady herself in you watch the snippets for long enough! The next section is dedicated to the small screen and has three sofas, each with their own old TV set and glass display table from their time. The televisions themselves are showing program snippets and the tables hold some very interesting items. The best in my eyes was Zippy, although George was sadly absent, who struck me as very short and upset me when I noticed that his arm isn't even attached to the puppet body! They also have an early video recorder, whic
h is larger than most television sets, and Brian's Mr Bear from Big Brother! Next comes the animation section and for me the most interesting piece in the exhibition - the original hand drawn storyboards from The Empire Strikes Back. The quality of the drawings are unbelievable and little touches like R2D2 being referred to as 'Artoo' make it really special. There are many other storyboards; the one from The Red Shoes is particularly outstanding, and also lots of cells from Disney classics and other animated films. The exhibition is also interactive with the inclusion of a kids area where they can dress up as their favourite film characters or make their own animation, some of which are displayed in cases on the wall. There is also a man running a kind of TV game show in the back corner that you can choose to watch or participate in. The Millennium Galleries has family activity days occurring within this exhibition including Science Day and Sound Effects Workshops (contact them on 0114 275 2655 for more information or visit the website at http://www.sheffieldgalleries.org.uk or you can email email@example.com). Finally there is the inevitable shop which sells a variety of film and TV memorabilia including books, postcards and toys. Some of these are quite unusual such as toys of the Spoon family from Button Moon and numbered collector's pictures. I think they could have done more with this exhibition but I suppose it is difficult as it is touring. Do fill in one of the Customer Comment cards before you leave and hand it in, as this enters you into a draw to win a UCG Unlimited Cinema Pass for a year. Within the building the other galleries free so we popped into the Metalwork Gallery which I personally found more interesting then the Moving Pictures exhibition! It had crowns, cutlery, hallmarks, a history of Sheffield's steel and all sorts of interesting examples of metalwork. There is also the Rus
kin Gallery and the Craft & Design Gallery displaying John Ruskin's art collection and The Chosen Letter - an exhibition of lettering - respectively. There is also a shop upstairs, outside of the paying gallery, although I didn't really look to see what they sold. They do however have a giant interactive cutlery monster that does various things when you press the buttons on his stomach. I could imagine children finding him little frightening, as he is at least 10 feet tall and an incredible construction achievement! Back downstairs the Galleries have the Café Azur, which is an expensive but fully licensed café bar. The view from here is lovely as it is right at the front of the building with it's floor to ceiling windows. Apparently they also cater for functions too! Overall I really enjoyed my visit to the Millennium Galleries and I will be returning to have a look at The Power of the Poster (22 June - 15 September 2002) from the Victoria and Albert Museum and 2D>3D: Contemporary Design For Performance (October/December 2002).
Hogshead, funny old name for a pub isn't it? Well maybe in these times when Hogshead conjures up thoughts of beheaded swine, but hogshead actually has a completely different meaning. I guess you have probably thought the same of the word firkin too. Well a firkin is a small beer cask, holding nine Imperial gallons (72 pints). Two firkins make a kilderkin. Two kilderkins make a barrel and one-and-a-half barrels make a hogshead*. Hence the title of the opinion! Now it's all starting to make sense, I'll take you back to the job in hand. In fat lets go back a little further to the days when 386 Beverley Road, Hull was a bingo hall and a cinema before that. (In fact it is rumoured that the old cinema is still upstairs!) We are talking about a grand old building here, but it had become rundown. Unkempt and unused, and still bearing the carved in stone letters Mayfair form its good old day, the building was pretty much in keeping with that whole area of the city. Then, slowly and barely noticeable a change started... Beverley Road has always (or as long as I can remember anyway) been a student area of the City and eventually the pub chains picked up on this. The Firkin took our beloved Mainbrace over (don't worry it's back now!), Weatherspoons opened, an Irish theme bar sprung up, they converted the railway bridge into the Cannon Junction café bar and suddenly the area was abuzz with people. One day the familiar wooden hoarding went up around the old bingo hall. Most of the 'lercals' (or locals if you aren't one) thanked their lucky stars that they were finally going to demolish the ugly old eyesore but a few months later out popped the Hogshead! Now this cased a bit of a kerfuffle as there was already a Hogshead pub on Newland Avenue. In fact the 2 pubs resided at either end of De Grey Street less than a mile apart! Well to cut a long story short, Whitbread pulled some bog-company weight and the exi
sting Hogshead suddenly became the Nagshead (thus losing it's real meaning!) and the Hogshead stood proud! It's a funny looking bar... It's still retains it's slightly unkempt regalia but has replaced the boards and bill posters with large polished oak and glass doors, each giving a glimpse into the wooden warmth inside. It's an odd looking but inviting place, so let's pop in for a quick one! Actually most of the city, its students and its visitors seemed to pop in for a quick one on the opening night (December 20th 1998). It was such a nightmare that in the end my partner in crime and I turned right around and went home instead of trying to fight to the bar! However, a few nights later it looked pleasantly quiet in there so we ventured in and my! Were we impressed! The huge chest height wooden bar dominates the centre of the bar and is facing you as soon as you walk in. It holds an impressive range of wines and spirits in the racking at the back plus in true Hogshead style a wide range of 'on tap' and bottled beers. They even have a large cappuccino/espresso coffee machine on one end of the bar, in case you fancy some hot refreshment. Look around an the seating area spreads around the front, left, right and just behind the bar and comprises mainly of big wooden tables an stools. There are also a few old church pews making booths down the right and the area to your left is a non-smoking area which is more plush than the rest of the bar...;) Right at the back are some comfy low sofas and tables spread in a square around the dominating fireplace. The daily (and Sunday) papers are kept in a rack on the wall and in general the atmosphere is very laid back. The drinks are very competitively priced but I guess they have to be with that many pubs and bars in one area. The Hogshead nearly always has offers on certain drinks too. Usually bottled beers and alcopops but they can save you a lot of cash if you
39;re planning a big night on the demon drink! Also the wines are very reasonable to buy by the bottle and the often have an offer where if you buy 2 large glasses you get the rest of the bottle free. They also have an extensive menu, which is fairly standard pub food but quite cheap and fairly quickly served. Id's say half of the menu is homemade and half microwave so you'll just have to take pot luck. They also do a VERY GOOD Sunday lunch serving from 12 noon on Sunday but you'll have to be their early in order to get a seat and make sure there is some left! They also serve breakfast between 11 and 1 every day. Finally I just have to mention the toilets, as they are ALWAYS impeccable. At least the ladies are anyway and that always impresses me in a pub. They do however have two large heavy swing doors to get to them on which I have done myself countless drunken injuries! You have been warned! The Hogshead is one of the few things I miss about Hull. As I recall here are its best bits... Summer - sitting outside on the front at twilight watching the bustle of Beverley Road pass by Winter - reading the Sunday papers around the fire on the leather sofas So if you're ever in Hull try it, you might like it! (* Thanks to Sean Desmond for the meanings from The Firkin Info List: http://www.mesklin.demon.co.uk/beer/firkin.text)
In my humble opinion, DooYoo is a continuous learning experience. Don't believe me? Let me tell you why... ~ 1: The Existence ~ Firstly, and foremost you learn about the existence of DooYoo. You maybe were recommended by a friend, saw an ad on the Tube, or whatever. Regardless, you drop by and see what is on offer, and it looks quite impressive doesn't it? All of that information at your fingertips about just about anything you can imagine. And the people of the community write this themselves? Sure do! They seem a friendly bunch too? Maybe I will join! ~ 2: The Money ~ So you have decided to sign up and along the way you learn that DooYoo are going to pay you, not only for writing opinions but also for other people reading them! Real cash, bling-bling spondoolicks, moolah! What a joyous discovery! ~ 3: To Churn ~ So next, and almost inevitably you learn to churn. Don't worry, it happens to the best of us! The thing is the more quick opinions you write the more money you seem to make! But then you realise that no-one is reading your opinions, or maybe one or two people are but that's not making you any cash. Also come to think of it, it's not helping anyone else either... ~ 4: The Value ~ And so you have learnt the value of an opinion. Not just the monetary value in your pocket, but the value of the information you can convey. Usually you learn this by reading other opinions. Sometimes you'll be astounded by what a writer has told you, maybe touched by his/her personal anecdotes or even enraged by their untruths in comparison with your experiences. You learn to rate this value using the handy scale at the bottom and then you begin to notice that the more valuable opinions appear at the top of the category list... ~ 5: Or Not To Churn ~ Then you make probably the most important discovery of all, at least in my opinion, and that is you learn to become a b
etter writer. You begin to plan your opinions, research and organise them and most importantly feel proud of what you have produced at then end! You look on your profile page and feel a warm glow inside upon reading your opinion titles. You have also noticed that more people are reading your opinions, and leaving complimentary comments. It's a nice feeling isn't it? ~ 6: Circle of friends ~ Next you learn about the people. You find favourite writers, you know about their lives from reading their opinions and you keep all of your favourites in your circle of friend for quick access. You learn that DooYoo can notify you when they write an opinion, so you need never miss the latest instalments of their lives. Some of these friends transpose easily from being electronic to real life, flesh and blood ones... Just ask ANDREWSJK and harmonyk if you don't believe me! ~ 7: Helpful Comments ~ Nearing the shallows of your learning curve, as each opinion teaches you something, you learn a further value of comments. Not only can they be successfully used for flattery, but you can also convey and learn information through them! You will learn that people know little juicy titbits about the subjects you have written on and if you are lucky, they'll share them in the comments box. Don't forget though - it would be rude to withhold further information about other opinions so go ahead and comment away! ~ 8: And finally... ~ ...you learn that not only do some users still really like DooYoo, but some categories allow them to write rambling reminiscent opinions which really aren't of any use at all but may bring a smile to a few faces, which makes them the best opinions of all...;)
It is no coincidence that the front of this camera bears the emblem 'digitaldream' as this minuscule little gadget truly is a dream come true. Everyone has a digital camera nowadays don't they? That is, everyone except me. My friends have endless amounts of fun taking picture of themselves and each other and emailing them around the place. Now I would really like one but for two reasons... 1) I don't own a Mac or PC 2) I'm not very good with cameras so I tend to buy cheap / disposable ones in preparation for their imminent breakage. So, imagine my delight when the firebox.com newsletter dropped into my Inbox this month, proudly displaying digital dream's l'espion camera at number one of the sales chart so to speak. Sorry, I missed a bit: digital dream's £39.95 l'espion camera. Yes £39.95! Surely at this price you can't go wrong! Two days later the parcel arrived! The first thing I was astounded by was the size of the camera. When the blurb describes it as no bigger than a matchbox, it really isn't kidding! The camera's dimensions are 58mm x 40mm x 15mm and it weighs in at an impressive 40g, most of which belongs to the AAA battery it requires to run! Hence the name I suppose (l'espion is French for the spy). It comes attached to a silver keyring but this is easy to remove and reduces the camera weight by about half! Investigating the parcel further I noticed a lot of other stuff had arrived with the camera. Firstly and most importantly it came with a Panasonic AAA battery which is what is required to operate. I think this is a fairly standard procedure now, but when you buy a bargain item you don't usually expect this level or service. I was impressed! It also arrived with the tiniest carry pouch, a USB cable and a CD containing the drivers and Ulead PhotoExpress Software. You can download the camera drivers from firebox.com and they include a plug-in for A
dobe Photoshop. Effectively this means that you don't need too use the Ulead software, and as using Photoshop is a part of my job I haven't! The Photoshop plug-in allows you to use the Import function and is very straightforward. Also in the box was a voucher to get 6 free glossy prints of your favourite digital photos and a sample print. You simply got to the digital dream website, enter the voucher code, upload your photos and they will arrive in the post! Finally there was a small bag of Swizzles Pig Head sweets although I suspect these may have more to do with firebox.com than the camera manufacturer! The feature list of the camera is equally as impressive. Using it's 2MB internal memory it can allow you to take 20 photos in high quality mode (352x288 pixels), or an impressive 80 snaps in low-resolution mode (176x144). You can also mix an match between these taking some high and some low. This is all controlled by a simple 2 button process. You use the mode button to select the resolution. This is displayed as Hr (High resolution) or Lr (Low resolution) on the LCD display. You then use the top button to select the mode and the number of remaining pictures is displayed on the LCD. The camera has a fixed focus lens and automatic exposure so you simply point it and click the top button again to take a picture. It makes a beep indicating it has taken one! Easy! Other modes you can select are St, which is a 10 second self-timer. You know the sort. Where you can set up the picture then press the button, run and get yourself in it! L'espion beeps 10 times, once per second taking the picture on the 10th beep. You can also chose Ct (Continuous) which allows you to hold down the top button and take a set of pictures that can be converted into a short silent AVI movie by the Ulead software. The final option is CL, which required you to double-click the top button. This will then delete all the images from the ca
mera. You can also delete the mages through the Photoshop plug-in on a Mac but this isn't available on the PC drivers. Finally in it's impressive list of features the camera can be used in 16 framer per second (FPS) webcam mode. Also if you are a Mac user you can use it as USB video capture which will allow you to make movies of any number of frames! All you need is to download Apple Video Player for free from apple.com and use Quick Time Pro to convert the movies to MPEG or AVI. PC users can do this two but you will need a video capture card in your machine and probably some additional software. My family and friends have been receiving small clips of me waving and smiling on a daily basis since I bought the camera. It was funny at first, I think it may be wearing thin but whilst I'm still enjoying myself they will continue to get clogged up email boxes...;) Here are firebox.com's minimum system requirements for l'espion as stated on their website: PC: 166MHz Pentium Processor or better; 32MB RAM; 10MB Minimum Hard disk Space; USB port; CD-ROM drive; Windows 98/ME/2000. Mac: Apple Imac/G3/G4 with USB Port; 32MB RAM; CD Drive; 10MB Minimum Hard Disk Space; Mac OS8.6 or Above; Image application supporting Adobe Photoshop plug-ins; Apple Quick time for viewing video clips. So down to the nitty gritty, what's the picture quality like? Well it isn't bad at all! You can see the pictures weren't taken by an £800 state of the art digital camera, because they weren't but at a fraction of the cost I think the quality of these is excellent. There are example pictures on Firebox.com if you want to have a look. The camera boasts 0.1 megapixel, 16.7 million colours, CMOS sensor (?), built-in retractable optical viewfinder and a range of 0.8m to infinity, and all bundles into that silver matchbox! It suffers considerably in low light conditions, as it has no flash. If you are in Hr or Lr m
odes, the camera simply emits a lower sounding beep when you try to take a picture, indicating that the light it too poor. You can get round this by using Ct mode, which will allow you to take pictures in any light. However the resulting images are often very grainy and low quality. My final gripe is that the camera deletes all of its pictures if you drop it. Having said all that, you really have to weight this up against the cost. My friend who owns a £800 digital camera says my movie clips are of no worse quality than his! The best part about the camera is that it's so inconspicuous! It makes very little sound and as a result I have manage to take several unnoticed shots of my colleagues. Nothing I can blackmail them with as yet but I'll keep trying! They have all ordered one after being amazed by the price and capabilities of mine! I'm also sure that because of its size, it will be easy to take it into places where cameras are not allowed (look out Space, Ibiza). I'm going back to Hull to try out the Deep at the weekend so I'll try and get some pictures in there. For more information and sample images taken with l'espion, get yourself along to http://www.firebox.com/index.html?dir=firebox&action=product&id=666. You know you want one, there's no point in trying to resist... I just hope you have had as much fun with it as I have!
I'm a Travis fan. At least in my opinion I'm a fan. I don't follow them around the country screaming, pin pictures of them on my wall, wear their t-shirts or graffiti 'I love Travis' around the world but I do own their two most recent albums, which I listen to and enjoy quite frequently. However much as I enjoy their music, I wouldn't have thought they would give much of a live show... I was to be proved wrong. I wouldn't have bought tickets to see them. Partly because I didn't think the show would be up to much, but mainly because I knew they were playing at Sheffield Arena. I see some of you are confused and others are in the know, so to speak. Well I'll enlighten you all and apologies to those who already hold this information. In exchange for a bits of work our company do for the Arena, complimentary tickets to events arrive on my desk every so often. I was really quite excited when the tickets arrived as the event had been 'Sold Out' for quite some time and I didn't think we would be going. However, on Monday afternoon in the midst of my 48-hour weekender hangover, I can't say I was pleased when I recalled the event. I'd have much preferred to go home and huddle in the corner of my bed for a while, but as I had offered my taxi services to the rest of my colleagues it wasn't really an option. The tickets clearly stated that the doors opened at 6:30pm, with the 'special guests' (happening to be The Doves in this case) taking to the stage at around 7:30pm. I quite wanted to see The Dove splay. I'm convinced I really like at least one of their songs, although I don't recall its title, or the tune either if I'm honest! Anyway, to cut a long story short the refreshment queue and colleague collections prevented me from seeing any reasonable amount of their set, so I wont comment, except to say they were pleasant when they left the stage. Again we had pr
ime seats close to the front-right of the stage. This time I didn't feel like standing, as I had at the Stereophonics, but I did have a problem with the legroom, or to be more precise lack of it. I'm not particularly tall but there just wasn't enough room for my legs between my seat and the one in front. My colleagues, all being male, go around this problem by spreading their legs around the seats in front, which as a lady (stop laughing at the back!) wasn't really an option to me...;) Anyway, this was all soon forgotten as the music started. Very cheekily, I thought, the introduction to Lemon Jelly's Staunton Lick boomed from the stage closely followed by the entrance of five scruffy blokes and a lot of cheering from the crowd. Of course, the aforementioned scruffs were Travis (plus one for live purposes, who unfortunately we weren't introduced to). First came drummer Neil Primrose closely followed by guitarist Andy Dunlop, bassist Douglas Payne and front man, singer and songwriter Francis (Fran) Healy. They did look more like they were about to clear out their garages, with their denim dungarees, jeans and old t-shirts but as they launched into 'Sing', from their latest album 'The Invisible Band', this was soon forgiven. You see, Travis aren't about looking flash in matching suits. The Glaswegian band formed in the early 90's to bring melody back to the music of the time, and some ten years later they have clearly succeeded. If you know of their music, you'll be thinking about a collection of beautiful, happy and painful songs each with it's own very distinct edge, and this is what Travis are about. It's simply the music, and enjoyment for all concerned. The stage was backed by a huge white sheet screen, which was revealed in sections, by the removal of the black drapes in between the first three songs. These could be seen dropping away in the darkness of the stage, on
ly to disappoint the viewer with a plain white screen as a result! There were also 12 TV screens on poles arranged into an arc behind the band, which were again used for the show visuals. Theses were mainly a display of colours with the odd bit of imagery creeping in, such as the never-ending train during the performance of 'Last Train' and the hilarious video of Fran car surfing. One of the most memorable displays was during the performance of 'Driftwood' where the screen showed three large circles in primary colours. Into each of these a silhouette of a trampolining girl with long pigtails appeared. The other incredible use was during the performance of my favourite song 'Fear' where the screen was filled with flames. This and the clever lighting actually made it seem incredibly hot in the Arena, with the enhanced performance of a lot more oomph only adding to the effect! There was an odd moment during the performance of 'Slide Show' where a seemingly identical screen was hoisted in front on the stage, hiding the band from only those in the middle of the arena. Onto this a slide show of photographs was projected, which seemed a little pointless as surely this could have been shown on the backdrop screen. However, a photo of the boys mooning soon brought the house down, and even made Fran giggle during singing, so again this was soon forgotten. Perhaps the best use of the backdrop was during the performance of 'Coming Around'. Fran talked for a while about how after seeing the giant screen, all he could think about was using it with his Playstation2. A little banter with the crowd later, he had pulled a young lad, called Mark I believe, out of the crowd, given him the PS2 controller and set him playing Gran Tourismo 3 for the duration of the song! It made Mark's night and the rest of the crowd had a good giggle at his Playstation face on the large screens that swamped the stage sides!
I was expecting the show to really concentrate on the songs from 'The Invisible Band' but it turned out that 'The Man Who' got much more of an airing. I have included a track listing from the show, but please not that this isn't comprehensive or indeed chronological! ~ From The Invisible Band ~ Sing, Side, Flowers In The Window, Last Train, Coming Around ~ From The Man Who ~ Writing to reach you, Fear, As you are, Driftwood, Turn, Why does it always rain on me, Slide show, bonus track (Saturday Evening?) ~ From Good Feeling ~ All I want to do is rock (the first song Travis ever performed as a band), I love you anyways, Happy (appropriately the last song of the evening) And also a song I believe was called 'Twenty' which was the first song Fran ever wrote. The band was surprisingly interesting to watch with the exception of Neil Primrose who didn't seem to get much camera action! Andy Dunlop put in an astounding performance of constant bouncing, bending an rolling which sharply contrasted with Douglas Payne's excellent 'swing your pants' shimmy as per Trevor and Simon used to! Fran seemed to join in with whichever he preferred at the time, whilst darting from one side of the stage to the other. Fran also talked a lot between the songs and at the point he brought the house lights up, he seemed genuinely surprised by the large size of the crowd. This all added to the appeal of the band, their music and the evening. However, I must apologise to Travis as we ducked out in the final few bars of Happy. You see, this meant we avoided the 45 minute traffic queue (like the one we sat in after the Stereophonics concert). Sorry guys! The remaining UK tour dates are as follows and I'd really recommend that you try and catch one of the dates. I was a genuinely surprising and entertaining show. With hindsight, I'd definitely pay to see Travis ag
ain: 05/03/02 NEWCASTLE Arena 07/03/02 ABERDEEN Exhibition Centre 08/03/02 and 09/03/02 GLASGOW SECC 11/03/01 CARDIFF International Arena 12/03/02 WEMBLEY Arena 13th March - Wembley Arena 15/03/02 MANCHESTER Evening News Arena 16/03/02 - BELFAST, Odyssey Arena 18/03/02 - ABERDEEN, Exhibition Centre 19/03/02 - GLASGOW SECC 22/03/02 LONDON Arena, Docklands For more information have a look at: http://www.Travisonline.com http://www.nme.com