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rachels_ratty

rachels_ratty
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Member since: 02.01.2003

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      15.04.2004 04:44
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      Trevor McKinney is 12 years old, in his first year of Junior High School and comes from what some may call a dysfunctional family. His father Ricky is a drunken low-life who has walked out on them, leaving his recovering alcoholic mother Arlene working two jobs to support them and cover the debts she has been saddled with. Trevor?s social studies teacher is also new to the school. Rueben St Clair is a badly scarred Vietnam veteran who has become a loner, almost a recluse because nobody can get past his disfigurement. He tells Trevor?s class that he?s setting them an optional assignment that will earn them extra grade credits - Think of an Idea that Will Change the World and Put it into Action. From small seeds big ideas grow so they say and this is very true in this case. Trevor?s idea is very simple. Instead of doing a good turn for someone who has helped you, pay it FORWARD instead. If someone does you a good turn, do something good, something big, something life changing for THREE other people. Then those three people will go on to help three people each and so on and so forth. Unfortunately for Trevor things don?t go so well, or at least he thinks they don?t. He helps an old lady tend her garden and she dies, he helps a down-and-out who promptly gets arrested and his plans for his mother and Rueben ? well let?s just say they don?t go according to plan? So, very simplistically, this story tells the tale of a 12-year-old boy who decides he wants to change the world with a seemingly perfect idea, a ridiculously easy thing to put into practice. But if that were all there was to it ? well this would be a very short review of a very short book! It is written as an after the fact sort of diary instead of a plain novel which I admit took me a while to get used to as the story seems to jump about a bit between characters. A few times I had to flick back a page to make sense of what I was reading next. That is not
      as bad as it sounds actually, it meant I was having to devote my full time and attention to the story which helped me to absorb it better, to understand it more fully. I think, on reflection, it made MORE of an impact written in this style than it would have made written as a straightforward novel. The characters are very well written and three-dimensional. Trevor?s disillusionment when he feels no one cares about his ?idea? is tangible as written in extracts from his diary. I felt like I was seeing glimpses of the world through a child?s eyes and how hard it is to make sense of the world when everything seems so easy to change, when adults seem so stubborn and set in their ways! Rueben?s hidden pain and loneliness is more than apparent throughout the story as is Arlene?s struggles with supporting her son, battling against the pull of the ?bottle? and her love/hate relationship with Ricky. Through reading the book I felt the almost Catch-22 situation they both found themselves in their respective lives. Rueben wants to let people in, but feels they won?t get past his scars so almost hides himself away. In a way he judges people before they get a chance to judge him ? there were times throughout the story when I felt like I wanted to meet him in ?real? life and give him a darned good shake! Now I have no idea if this is the reality for people who are facially disfigured or not, but the way his character played out certainly MADE it feel very believable. Arlene?s character is equally as complex and confusing at times but her pain and confusion were just as understandable as Rueben?s. Let?s face it, having your partner walk out on you is one bad thing, but she really does have the odds stacked against her. Her character out of all the main players was the most interesting for me and I really enjoyed reading how she developed and changed as the tale progressed. Now I?m sure a lot of you are aware that this book has been ma
      de into a film I thought it prudent to mention it at this juncture. If you are one of those who have seen the movie and were left feeling disillusioned by it and wondering what the fuss was about (as I was) ? then read the book instead! The two really are completely different and I now understand why the film didn?t really work ? or at least it didn?t for me. Some of the characters in the book have been completely changed for the (unknown) purposes of Hollywood and the story altered, twisted and in some cases pounded that far out of shape it literally doesn?t make sense. That?s why, for me I?m glad I gave the book a chance to see exactly what the author intended the story to be. Suddenly some things in the film make sense and I?m now intending to watch it again ? maybe this time round I?ll like it! The only thing that lets both film and book down is the ending, although the book does it better I still felt it was a bit of a cop-out on the author?s behalf. It was almost as if she had naturally let the book flow where IT wanted to and then had no idea how to bring things to an end. All things considered I do recommend everyone goes out, lays a hand on a copy and reads it. It?s a warm sort of tale, one of hopes, aspirations, how some people CAN rise against the odds stacked against them. I read it in just a couple of days, I couldn't put it down once I'd grown acustomed to the writing style. I know it?s only a work of fiction but in today?s world, wouldn?t it be nice to think that maybe, someday, somewhere, Trevor?s dream really did come true? Maybe it hasn't changed my life. Maybe it never will. But it certainly gave me plenty of food for thought... There ? now I?ve Paid It Forward!

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      • Rabbit Proof Fence (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 13 Ratings
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        04.04.2004 06:21
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        Molly, Daisy and Gracie are half-caste Aboriginal children growing up on the Jigalong Settlement in Western Australia with their families and according to traditional ways. They hunt their food in the bush, retain their language, their rituals and values. Their fathers? were white men who worked along the rabbit-proof fence and they have no contact with them. The situation works well for all ? or so you would think. However this is 1931 and the Australian Government had introduced a policy to remove all half-caste children from their homes, their families and their lives and transport them to re-settlement centres. Why? So they could either enter domestic service for the Whites? or marry Whites? and therefore breed out the ?Native? in them. The Government thought that having a growing population that was neither Black nor White would destabilise the Country and the ?problem? had to be dealt with swiftly once and for all. Mr A. O. Neville has the strange (given the circumstances) of Protector of Aborigines for WA. He?s the person who decides where the indigenous populace may travel to, whom they may marry and where they may work. He is also in charge of carrying out Government orders when it comes to the removal of half-caste children from their Mothers. In truly harrowing scenes we are shown the three girls removal from Jigalong by Constable Riggs, Molly quite literally being dragged kicking and screaming from her Mother?s arms and transported over one thousand miles to the Moore River Settlement near Perth. It is not just the removal, the heartbreak, the way it is enforced; the girls are taken to a whole New World for them. Jigalong is in Australia?s dusty interior; the Moore River Settlement is by a river, the world is green, everything is strange. In short, they are petrified. The Settlement isn?t everything promised either. Comprising of nothing more than a group of wooden shacks the children are locked into so called dormitories each night, s
        leep on camp style beds and the toilet is nothing more than a metal bucket. The food provided is nothing like the fair they are used to eating and looks revolting, they are forbidden from using their native tongue, church is compulsory; life is run by the ringing of the Settlement bell. Naturally the girls are homesick, want their Mamma?s. Molly, the very image of petulant teenager, decides enough is enough, they are going home! Now remember I said they were transported over one thousand miles and are now in what is to them a foreign land? Well there is one familiar thing for them if they can find it ? the rabbit proof fence, which runs directly north to south and from coast to coast. Molly knows it runs straight past their Jigalong Settlement so if located would quite literally lead them straight home. What happens next is basically a walk that entered the girls into the record books and took nine weeks, but to say anymore here would be spoiling things! The film is based on a true story as written down by Doris Pilkington Garimara who is the daughter Gracie. She painstakingly recorded the details as told to her by her mother/aunts, a fact that was made difficult by the fact that the Aboriginal people do not record/remember detail such as time in a way we do. An Aborigine would remember time in respect to rites, rituals, when the rains came, when emu chicks displayed certain plumage etc. She was also, of course dealing with very old memories. Don?t forget this all happened in 1931 and she was trying to record it for the history books, for posterity in the 1990?s. This is the one fact that makes watching the film pretty harrowing. As a pure fictional drama it would work of course, but the fact that everything you are seeing is true, did happen and continued happening until the early 1970?s ? the children removed during those intervening forty years are known now as the Stolen Generations. This fact is the main reason I wanted to watch this film (and
        I have also read the book) ? the last time I visited Adelaide I was privileged to see a travelling exhibition of paintings by a renowned Aboriginal Artist depicting this very topic. That has to be one of the most emotion-evoking displays I have ever seen and made me determined to discover more about these ?lost? children. Director Phillip Noyce in my opinion performed a near perfect celluloid miracle whilst transferring the story from the spoken/written word and onto film. He cast three completely unknown children with no acting experience between them for the roles of the respective children. A gamble maybe and one that he was forced into as there are so few Aboriginal actors/actresses, but it works. The situations the three girls had to ?act? were as alien to them as they were to the real Molly, Daisy and Gracie and so their reactions were completely true to life. They didn?t really have to do an awful lot of acting, which is why the whole thing is so believable. There is nothing worse than watching a film based on true life that does not work, that leaves you cold, that makes you wonder if you are heartless because you don?t cry when you are supposed to! Because the girls? reactions and acting is so good you cannot help but be moved, be swept along by the story as it unfolds, be willing them to make it, to achieve the impossible. Of course the girls couldn?t possibly achieve the telling of the story on their own and a fine cast supports them. Kenneth Branagh is perfect as A. O Neville, a typical Colonial upstart and seemingly devoid of emotion who simply doesn?t understand why the Indigenous population of Western Australia are so against what the Government is doing for them. ?Don?t they know what?s good for them?? is one very memorable quote that shows the prevailing attitude of the immigrant White population but the best one to demonstrate feelings at the time ? ?We have to save them from themselves?. You see, although ?appearing? emotionle
        ss I believe Mr Neville really did care about the Aborigines, just not in the way you would care for another human being. They were seen more as animals than human beings and he wanted to tend to their needs much in the same way you would look after a pet cat. David Gulpilil who plays Moodoo the Aboriginal tracker employed by the Moore River Settlement to locate runaways is the only other actor I knew before watching the film. His character is another that provoked a fairly strong emotional response as I watched the film. He was, in short, using his heritage, his skills against his own people and that smacked to me of just being plain unfair, of being completely out-of-synch with how things should have been. The sad truth of the matter is a historical one. When the Whites arrived and began displacing the Indigenous Population they had to move, had to adapt to a completely new way of life. Some chose to continue their nomadic existence wherever possible, some chose to live alongside the Whites to gain the so-called ?best of both worlds? and others chose to work for the New People. Let?s face it, the Aborigines possessed innate skills that the Whites? desperately needed in order to survive in what to them was a very hostile Country. Under the context of the story and with what the girls? were trying to achieve it just appeared that Moodoo had ?sold-out?, almost like he had sold his soul to the Devil. The cinematography is perfect for the film. The locations chosen all show perfectly the changing landscape as the girls moved further and further North and whilst all shots are shown with the focus being on the children they show exactly what they were dealing with, the extreme harshness and unforgiving nature of the Australian Interior. There are also some lovely moments of contrast as the film switches between the girls? journey and Mr Neville?s dark and stuffy offices in Perth. A bigger difference in the world?s the Whites? and Indigenous Peoples in
        habited couldn?t be greater and the way the film switches between the two is a very effective and simple way of getting the point across. The Soundtrack that accompanies the film is also in good keeping with the enfolding story. A mix of works by Peter Gabriel and haunting Aboriginal sounds evoke the ideal atmosphere. For all that I did have one or two small niggles with the movie although I think they stemmed from the fact that I read the book before I sat and watched the film. The odd inaccuracy from book to film crept in as I guess is inevitable when something makes the leap from book to the large or small screen. Sheets were seen on the girls beds at Moore River whilst Doris goes to great pains in the book (and several times as I recall) to point out the starkness of the accommodation the children were housed in. Sheets were for special occasions only! Not something I would have even thought about had I not read the book first but at times I am a stickler for accuracy. My main concern was that in translation the story, the journey, call it what you will has been to an extent ?sanitised?. The girls walked for nine weeks, they used their Aboriginal skills to kill wild animals to survive as well as visiting homesteads to beg for food. Apart from one small scene where the girls are seen removing bird?s eggs from a nest and eating the contents you could be forgiven for wondering how they survived. The sad fact is that for the main part, the film was being made for the White Australian public and it had to be made that way in order for the majority to go and watch it. The girls had to be appealing enough for the Whites? to take them to heart, to sympathise, to understand what they went through. Am I the only person who finds that fact alone as sad as what happened to the Aboriginal population in the first place? Have things really changed that much? The Stolen Generations are NOT something that should ever be forgotten and I praise Phillip
        Noyce for having the guts to bring it to life in such a thought-provoking manner. Directed ? Phillip Noyce Molly ? Evelyn Sampi Daisy ? Tianna Sansbury Gracie ? Laura Monaghan Moodoo (tracker) ? David Gulpilil Constable Riggs ? Jason Clarke A O. Neville ? Kenneth Branagh Run time ? 94 minutes Rated - PG

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        • Trent Barton / Transport National / 1 Reading / 24 Ratings
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          30.11.2003 01:27
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          • "AWFUL Customer services (and that's the polite version...)"

          Trent Barton (by their own claim) is one of the few remaining independent bus companies left in the UK and they have been around in one guise or another for the best part of a century. With a fleet of over 300 buses and employing roughly 1,000 local people, they are based in Henor, Derbyshire and run routes throughout Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and as far to the north as Manchester. This leads them to the belief that they can offer a better and more personal service than their rivals. But does it work like that in practice? ~ Routes/Timetables ~ As a generalisation, Trents buses cover the vast majority of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire but they do partake in small forays into north Leicestershire and south Yorkshire; one bus also runs to Manchester via Stockport. The bulk of their routes link estates to each other and smaller communities to each other and to the larger towns/cities but they do partake in a small amount of cross-country provision. How often buses travel along their given routes depends on where you live, the time of day, the day of the week and more importantly, what competition there is. In high density commuter areas, a Trent bus is likely to appear before your very eyes every 5 minutes or so. If you live in a smaller town with no other bus operator in competition, your service will probably be around a bus every half an hour. In a smaller town WITH another bus operator running a similar route the frequency of buses will be stepped up. The Nottingham to Manchester Trans Peak service is timetabled to run at 2-hourly intervals. During peak hours some routes have a more frequent service, however this isnt necessarily the case as quite a few routes have a high density of buses running along them all day. Off peak services vary tremendously. Evening services on some routes are infrequent at best and non-existent on others apart from Friday and Saturday nights when they can cash in on the pubbers and c
          lubbers? ~ Fares ~ Trent has a mind-boggling range of fares available and you really have to be clued-in to know which will offer you the best value. There is also no real consistency in cost/distance so it is hard to get on a different route for the first time and have a clue as to the price. Single fares offer the poorest value for money, but are not charged at a uniform rate regarding distance unless you travel within Nottinghams City boundary, where there is a flat rate £1 fare. A single fare to Hucknall from Nottingham, a distance of around 8 miles ? costs £1.25 currently. A trip to Bingham from Nottingham, a trip of comparable duration/distance costs less than a Pound. The explanation I have been given is that certain routes suffer more congestion, which in turn makes buses more expensive to run. Fair enough but all it does is lead to confusion for the passenger. A TWO-TRIP ticket is one of two names given to a return fare. These are the only return tickets sold during peak travel hours, or you will need one for when you plan to make the reverse journey at peak time regardless of when you started out. SUPERSAVERS on the other hand are the off-peak return option and are of course cheaper than the two-trip alternative. Again confusion abounds as to the pricing structure in the same manner as single fares. Both tickets are open-ended; in other words you dont have to make the second half of your trip on the same day and you can make the second journey in the same direction as the first. If youre not already confused enough there are several other ticket options available. A FRIO ticket gives you 13 single trips between two fixed points of your choice for the price of 10. Paid for in advance on the bus you can use them all yourself or have the driver clip the ticket for however many of you there are travelling at any one time. A CASH SAVER ticket represents the best value for money for those travelling on a daily
          basis. Costing £28 for travel within the Nottingham City boundary and £47 for limited areas beyond (to a distance of roughly 8/10 miles); these can be purchased from the Trent office in the Broadmarsh Bus Station (Nottingham). They come in their own little plastic wallet, bear the holders name and photograph and last for 28 days at a time. ZIGZAG tickets again come in two choices, or should I say prices! This is a "one day use go anywhere" option, but you need to know where you will be heading before purchasing as it does make a difference. The £3.50 zigzag is valid on all Trent buses but NOT north of Bakewell. The £5.95 alternative is the one that is TRULY valid on all Trent buses. There is also a family zigzag ticket; the price is currently £7.50. Concessions are available for all tickets except the Cash Saver and represent exact half-fares in just about all cases. If all that has given you a headache ? try living with it! One positive thing though is that you do NOT need the correct change when you get on the bus - all drivers carry change. A far superior system in my experience. ~ BUSES/DRIVERS ~ Trent must boast one of the youngest bus fleets in the country. Most buses are no more than four years old and have low-floors (and can kneel), buggy/wheelchair zones, air conditioning/heaters, bins (not that you would know it half the time), are smoke-free and double-glazed. Most now boast a new bright red livery although the Rainbow services come in all colours of? yep you guessed it! These aforementioned vehicles are usually clean, or at least they are on the outside. Trent say on their website that they pride themselves as being one of the few companies that clean inside the buses in full public view; in other words during the day. Now I have seen a few routes get this prestige service, but from personal experience the majority do not. The floors/seats of the buses on the three routes I regularly use ar
          e usually paper and wrapper strewn before midday. Explosions in a food factory would sometimes be appropriate words to use! Whilst I am not blaming the bus company for the habits of some passengers, I do feel that promises made should maybe be kept. As the majority of the fleet is pretty new they do have a fairly high comfort factor for passengers. The buses are on the whole nice and warm in the winter and cool in the summer ? but a combination of powerful air-conditioning and open windows in the summer can tend to leave passengers at the back looking a little wind-swept! On the whole the majority of buses do appear to run pretty much to schedule and for the most part, where delays occur it isnt Trent?s fault. Increasing congestion means buses get held up in areas where there are no bus lanes for example, inconsiderate car-parking which blocks bus routes is another eternal headache. In any case, when you become familiar with your regular route, you learn its little time keeping quirks. Reliability, or as I have come to call it in recent months ?Will I have to get off and push?? is, as you can maybe tell, an area they definitely could improve on. In just the last month I have personally been on/seen FOUR buses that have broken down and this is just on ONE route. One driver told me that the company KNEW the bus was faulty but refused to do anything about it until the inevitable occurred. The words "just not good enough" are the politest I can think of? The drivers are this bus companys redeeming quality. Overall they are fantastic - friendly, helpful, chatty, polite and considerate to all of their passengers. They tend to stick to just one or two routes, which allows them to get to know their regular customers and vice versa. This makes for a far more pleasant start and end to your journey. They are not only each passengers every day contact with the bus company but generally speaking the best people to ask with any min
          or query. Of course there are exceptions to every rule ? but you quickly learn which drivers are the best. ~ Customer Services ~ So what happens if you have a question your driver cannot answer? What if you need route/timetable/fare information? The best place to go to is Trents office in the Broadmarsh Bus Station. The staff there are friendly and polite and answer all questions efficiently and most importantly ? with a smile. But what if you cant get to a Travel office? The short answer to that one would be "wait until you can"! You could try e mailing them via the website but answers are not swiftly given and blunt when they are, so therefore in my experience this isnt recommended. This is, however still preferable to the nightmare that lurks at the other end of the dreaded Customer Service Helpline. I call it something else entirely? When I have managed to get past the automated scenario and spoken to a real person I have found that they are not only extremely unhelpful, but also rude, patronising and seem more concerned with how stressful their own day is than helping their customers. When you have had this experience, dont bother complaining. They go deaf. Very very deaf. ~ In Summary ~ They do have some good ideas. They have excellent money saving tickets for example, but they can get lost in the quagmire of just too many options and a muddled and very confusing fare structure. They train the drivers well but at times fail completely to tell them what is going on with route/timetable changes, thus rendering this counter-productive. They have clearly invested heavily in new vehicles and then, apparently, fail to maintain them properly. A shiny new bus is neither use nor ornament when it is stuck at the side of the road, going nowhere and full of disgruntled passengers. In areas they cover where there is competition from a rival bus company it is likely you wont hear a single word of
          complaint regarding Trent or its services. Buses here are spotless and frequent. If you are however unfortunate enough to live in an area where you ONLY have Trent providing you with a bus service (as I do), then it is highly likely that your bus service will be at the lower end of the acceptability scale. Now is probably an appropriate juncture to announce that Trent buses have just been crowned "Bus Operator of the Year" for the third time in five years. Yes, really! An industry given award it is public transports equivalent of the Oscars; i.e. not passenger generated. If it was? well they wouldnt get a pat on the back from me! Trent has, in the past, worked very hard in my area at driving out the competition. The knock-on effect to this of course is we are now left with a second rate service that we have no choice but to accept. This is hardly what you would expect from an award winning company. We?ve just suffered a scathing round of bus-cuts, which has left in its wake a confusing new timetable and us with no evening services from Sunday to Thursday. I have been left with the belief that Trent cares about nothing except for profit; routes full of commuters during peak hours have been labelled "unviable". We are not the only ones. I glance regularly at their website and see many other routes are/have been suffering the same fate. I used to be a huge fan of Trent buses. I have even worked for them. It is unfortunate then that nowadays there are more things wrong with the way things are set up than right. All the hard work being put in by the drivers, all the money being spent on new vehicles is being completely wasted by poor decision making and, from how I see things, money coming above anything and everyone. If you need to get from A to B during Peak hours or are fortunate enough to live on a main commuter route then you really couldnt do any better than have Trent as your bus company. If those two sta
          tements dont apply to you ? you have my deepest sympathies. For further information go to http://www.trentbuses.co.uk

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          • More +
            20.09.2003 05:13
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            • "I now know several different uses for poop..."

            ~ BRIEF HISTORY ~ Nottingham City centre is built on BUNTER Sandstone, which has a depth of around 200 feet in places. Now Sandstone is very easy to carve into and so Nottingham has approximately TWO HUNDRED caves and all of them are MAN MADE. The first recorded record of the caves comes in 868AD and unquestionably these first caves were dug out for the purpose of dwellings. Lets face it. You have no home but you need shelter. Find a shovel or any other implement and dig! As the centuries passed by, caves were dug for tradesmen to use for their businesses. Caves have a constant temperature so were excellent for brewing beer and the Sandstone filters water clean, vital for health. Businesses that required fire could light them safely in a cave (no wooden building to burn down), and if you needed bigger premises all you needed was a pick... When I was a child I remember "going down" the caves on many occasions and always through some unassuming gateway/doorway in the proximity of the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. You had a guide and were led through a whole series of caves and up and down numerous steps and steep inclines. Nowadays and I suppose due to more rigorous Health and Safety Laws, everything has had to be upgraded and more rigorously organised. Good or bad? Read on? ~ ALL-IMPORTANT BASICS! ~ Admission - Adults £4.00 - Children (age 4 to 14) £3 - Concessions £3 - Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) £12.50 Location - Drury Walk (Upper level) Broadmarsh Shopping Centre Nottingham NG1 7LE Telephone (0115) 952 0555 E-mail info@galleriesofjustice.org.uk Opening times 10am until 4.30pm daily including Bank Holidays, except 24/25/26 December, New Years Day and Easter Sunday. Due to the number of steps this is unfortunately not accessible to the disabled and therefore not baby buggy friendly either. >~ T
            HE TOUR ~ You enter the tour through the gift shop and don hard hats. The thought "Wow, have things become very dangerous down there?" did cross my mind at this point. I mean, when I was a child there was none of this rigmarole? Then again it must have been at least twenty years since I had last ventured underground in my fair home City! Your guide will take you down a spiral staircase, give you brief directions and leave you to your own devises until you meet your next "costumed" guide. On the way you pass very little by way of real interest. Theres a contrived "wishing well" and a few small displays depicting myths/legends. I have no idea if these are real or merely contrived but they were worth a peek and quite well laid out. All the time you are meandering though passageways and down small inclines. There are a few offshoots from the main corridor which are worth a quick look but unfortunately non of these are labelled so I have no clue what they were used for! Your first costumed guide meets you at the entranceway to the TANNERY, an area that stretches for quite a way and comprises of three main caves. The costumed guide is playing the part of the Tanners wife and she is looking for apprentices. Playing this role she imparts plenty of information but put to us in a way that was easy to digest and more importantly, easy to remember. Making our way through these three caves we learned all about the tanning process back in medieval times and let me say it was a truly revolting process. All I shall reveal here is that I now know how to remove blood and rotting flesh from an animal skin and that de-hairing it involves poop. Thats any old poop you understand? Any wonder why I think I will retain THAT information until the day I die! The caves here are perfectly preserved, the pits that held the animal skins whilst undergoing the tanning process are all in-tact and many a prop has been used to full ef
            fect to show what life was like for the tannery workers (but without the smell thank goodness). Life must have been pretty tough for those who chose tanning as a profession but pay was 6 shillings a YEAR and that included a roof over your head and two meals a day! Needless to say, the Tanners wife was most disappointed not to get any takers for the vacant apprentice jobs, although I did volunteer my 13-year-old daughter. Six oclock start for her in the morning! From here you move several centuries through time and onto one of the many remaining AIR RAID SHELTERS. During the Second World War, Nottingham had an in-built and perfect protection system for its residents, the caves. The largest cave used for this purpose isnt actually on show or in the city centre, its under the old John Player cigarette factory and is/was large enough to hold 9,000 people. The one on show for the sake of demonstration here is a tad smaller. Much much smaller in fact. There were roughly 20 people in our group and things were a little bit, lets say cramped. So, apart from the obvious reasoning behind using caves as air raid shelters, what made Nottingham caves perfect for the job? There are two intertwined reasons our (once again) costumed guide gave us. The first is that Sandstone is THE perfect shock absorber. You would have had to have taken a direct hit AND been close to the surface to have been hurt. The second reason is quite simple. Some of the caves had to be altered/extended to make them suitable shelters. The excavation process produced sand. This was used to make sandbags, which were distributed to the populous of the city to protect their homes and placed round lamp posts to prevent people hurting themselves during the blackout. Props were of course included on this part of the tour as an attempt to make things a little more realistic. Gas masks were passed around, as was a ration book. There were wartime posters on the corrugated metal roof and we
            entered the shelter to near darkness and the distant explosions of bombs. Sandbags were placed against all the walls for seating and all in all it was well done and educational marred only slightly when the guide forgot where he was in his "script"! From here you are pretty much left to you own devices, you cannot get lost as the route is pretty much in a straight line and in any case, theres nowhere to wander off too! The remainder of the tour does however hold plenty of information and you can take as long as you like looking at the other caves and reading the available information. The first exhibit was a small display showing a half buried and (of course unexploded) WWII bomb. Then you pass by what was DRURY LANE (slum housing demolished when the Broadmarsh Centre was built) where they have replicated what the back yards looked like and what was going on under the ground. These showed plainly and in stark detail exactly what life was life for Nottingham?s poorer residents. One of the yards contained a couple of privies and a woman cleaning; the next display showed a child sleeping on the floor in a cave. It is sad but true that very often, for the poor, the only choice for a roof over their heads was to literally dig their own and to fit them in wherever they could. The final "main" area was a pub cellar where it really doesnt take much imagination to picture barrels. There are various traditional pub games set up here like shove ha-penny and skittles, a game for which I have no idea of its origins ? "bat-a-rat" (my 13 year old read the name, turned and hit me!) and there was a sandpit area with small spades for the kids to dig for fossils. Apparently they bury small fossils here for children to dig up, however I cant vouch for this as my grumpy six year old wouldnt even give it the time of day and my 13 year old was too busy trying to bat the rat; me! >~ ANYTHING ELSE? ~ Wel
            l no there isnt, not really. At the entrance/exit there is a small GIFT SHOP that to be honest is pretty poor unless you like semi-precious gemstones or basic wartime memorabilia. The selection for younger children was especially dire but that said my youngest is now the proud owner of a purple glow-in-the-dark stag beetle. Isnt this mother lucky hey? My daughter got herself a replica medieval ring and I came away with a gemstone key ring. Well, semi-precious. Actually I have no clue but it looks good! It was a shame this was poor but I am informed (by my 13-year-old font-of-all-knowledge) that the gift shop at the Galleries of Justice is far better. Hardly the point when standing at the exit to the CAVES! Well there is a point there; the same company owns the cave experience, the Tales of Robin Hood and the Galleries of Justice. So I suppose they just share what they have out and to be fair, space is very limited at the caves entrance. ~ MY THOUGHTS ~ Overall, the caves tour does represent pretty good value for money. The staff estimate the tour will take you an average of 45 minutes but apart from the two guided areas you literally can take as little time or as long as you want to. There is no one there to hurry you on and, as we discovered, the tour runs in a loop with the entranceway underground meeting up with the exit; you could go round and round all day if you wanted! We spent well over an hour looking around and that was with a fractious six-year-old? The staff were all friendly and knowledgeable on the subject matter and both guides made sure that the children in the group could see. Everything was explained clearly but without anything being dumbed down, something I hate. The route for the tour couldnt have been any simpler and areas where you couldnt go were completely inaccessible. All displays were well labelled although I felt some of the detail level could have been improved. All in all though, they were more tha
            n adequate and certainly provided enough basics for everyone. A disappointment for some, I suppose could be that you only get a taster selection of caves to tour through. Hardly surprising though given the sheer number of caves that Nottingham has and as I have already mentioned not all of these are within the city centre area. Some of the caves are no longer safe to view due to total disuse, others are still in use and therefore still classed as private property. I also know that some people are disappointed by how few really old caves are on show. This is because they just dont exist. Well they do, but now under other guises. The beauty of Sandstone is that it is very adaptable, so many caves dug out for their original medieval purpose have been adapted/altered/extended during the centuries so little or no trace remains of their original purpose. So, overall I left the caves quite impressed. It was like visiting an old friend that has changed slightly over the years but it still recognisable from twenty years ago. Yes the whole tour has now become far more commercialised but the character of the experience hasnt been lost. I do only have two real quibbles with the tour. The first would be that I did miss the continuous guide from my childhood (my Mum has told me that they were using audio guides, they now seem to have scrapped that). The two guides there were excellent but there were large areas left un-guided and therefore you had to glean information from the boards. Fine for basics but I, personally would have like more detail about ALL of the caves we passed through. The second niggle is that as there are only two guides you do have to hang around and wait for the first one to finish her "spiel" with the previous group before you can really get going. My six-year-old got pretty bored and I have to say I was getting a little "twitchy" by the time the first guide turned up. The fact that there is no café facility
            here matters not one jot considering you are, in reality, in the middle of a shopping centre with several eateries! However, the lack of toilets?Suppose thats why the staff dont hassle you about leaving. They KNOW you have to come up for air at some point! Oh, and almost forgot ? on the question of the hard hats. Yes they were needed I was amazed to find. Several passageways are narrow with Sandstone outcrops and one doorway (from the Tannery) was really quite low. Very low in fact! 4/5 overall and with hindsight, not suitable for children much under the age of around 8 due to the fact that small children just wont appreciate the exhibits or tour.

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              04.09.2003 02:15
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              As a person who hates being herded around I generally travel independently so it was with some trepidation back in May that I found myself in my local travel agents with the words ?Package Tour? jumping out of my mouth. Not only were those words mysteriously emanating from myself, they were followed by the phrase ?last minute deal please?! Now I admit to getting a good deal. A darned good deal in fact. Granted the accommodation was unnamed at the time of booking, but with only 3 possibilities (to be allocated on arrival) I was only scared instead of plain petrified... So, preamble aside, following an hour and a half transfer from Antalya airport we arrived in Konakli and outside the Blue Village Pascha Bay Hotel complex in the wee small hours of the morning and in temperatures still in the upper 20s. Thankfully the reception area was air-conditioned, the staff were very efficient and following a brief exchange which involved me handing over my passport for the week and gaining a key, a map and room air-conditioning unit remote control we were on our way. We declined the help of a porter as our block was next to the reception but then regretted that choice when we realised we were on the second floor! ~ THE ROOM~ Pascha Bays accommodation consists of 306 rooms housed in 7 separate blocks each with 4 floors. These are built around the centralised pool/bars/restaurants. As I have already stated, we were in block number one, which put us at a distinct advantage at check in/check out but as we were on the second floor with only staircase access; no fun with heavy cases and tired kids. My own fault though? Our room was classed as a one-bedroom (sleeps 4 adults) studio. Entering the room there was a wide but short corridor with two huge DOUBLE WARDROBES on the left, complete with hangers and bottom cupboards containing extra blankets. Not too sure about using them during the summer but never mind. In one of the wardrobes was a
              n electronic security box, which can be activated for around £14 per week. We didnt use this facility, we left money and valuables in the room on a daily basis and NOTHING was touched, by the cleaning staff or anyone else for that matter. On the right hand side of the passageway was the bathroom or maybe SHOWER ROOM would be a tad more accurate. This was tastefully decorated and spotlessly clean, the sink and vanity unit was of a good size and allowed for all of our toiletries to "spread" during the week and the shower stall was huge and more than big enough for two person showers (ahem). There were plenty of soft clean towels available and these were changed as required during the week by the maid. In the shower was a wall mounted dispenser filled with complimentary shampoo and next to the vanity unit was another of these dispensers containing liquid soap. The only drawback was to use the toilet you had to enter the room and then shut the door immediately as the "loo" was behind the door. At the end of the short corridor, the room opened out into the main SLEEPING AREA/LOUNGE/KITCHENETTE. Again simply decorated but very fresh and clean the room was adequately furnished yet uncluttered. There was a sofa bed, which had already been pulled out and made upon our arrival, along with an armchair bed, which was also similarly pulled out and furnished with a clean sheet and blanket. The wall mounted air-conditioning unit was in here and positioned in such a way that you could blast the bedroom with cold air too if you left the connecting door open. It was fantastic to be able to keep the room at a steady 20 degrees whilst outside could be anything up to 45? This room also had a small circular dining table complete with 4 sturdy chairs and a "kitchen" area. Yes this is a hotel! The Pascha Bay offers rooms on a full board; half board and self-catering basis but ALL rooms come equipped in the same manner. So when I sa
              y kitchen area what exactly do I mean? Well, there was a full sized fridge, a microwave, 2-ring electric hob, full sized sink plus short counter-top with coffee maker and four slice toaster. There was also ample cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils and cupboard space. All of course was spotless and all the electrical equipment looked new. Above the counter top and wall mounted was the television set. Not much variety on offer through some very basic satelitte channels, but at least two were in English and there were also three radio stations available. From here there was a glass-panelled door that led into the BEDROOM which was simply decorated to match the lounge area. In here were two single beds, a chest of drawers and a vanity unit. Off the bedroom was the "piece-de-resistance", the BALCONY. French doors opened up onto a smallish tiled area furnished with a small patio table and 2 chairs; all well and good but thats not what drew me out there at 7 o clock each morning. Sitting out there I could turn to the right and see the Mediterranean Sea lapping at the hotels own beach and to the left were the hills. Perfect! Now I MUST stress here that only a FEW rooms can offer a view of BOTH hills and sea and we struck EXTREMELY lucky. However I can say that all rooms above the ground floor do have balconies and those on the ground floor have private patio areas. As I have already stated, the DAILY maid service covers ALL rooms during which time they will change the bedding and towels and towel "art" seems compulsary! Of course it depended on which maid cleaned your room as to what "shape" you received, but one day we got towelling swans. Well I was impressed! They also give the whole room a clean and tidy and even wash your dishes should you leave a dirty glass in the sink. Apart from this, you also get a "do not disturb" sign to hang on your door which reverses to be a "please clean this room" sign sh
              ould you make a mess between scheduled cleans. Very handy when travelling with kids. Both signs were complied with; the first day we were there the maids left our room until we had surfaced... ~ FACILITIES ~ No hotel in the sun would be complete without a SWIMMING POOL and the Pascha Bay has THREE of them! The main pool has a fountain in the middle and a depth that ranges from 1.5 metres to 2.5 metres. Separated from this by a wall and a bridge that crosses the water is the childrens pool which has a depth of less than a metre. New for this year is a baby pool, which is completely separate from the deeper pools and has a depth of barely a few inches. Covered by a marquee to keep it in the shade it was a lovely place for those "younger" guests to cool down. Please bear in mind though that this is NOT Britain and therefore safety standards as we would take them do not apply. Lifeguards do not exist so it is down to parents to watch their own kids in the water, but there are plenty of hotel staff around should problems arise. I was impressed to see how CLEAN the water was, in fact how scrupulously clean the entire hotel was and YES the pool is cleaned daily. Surrounding the main pool are plenty of sun loungers, which are free to use. The hotel also operates a policy of "no reservation" when it comes to the sun loungers. Stops certain people putting their towels on them! Any towel found on a lounger with no obvious signs of anyone using it, the towel is removed. Made me laugh? After all that swimming you will probably be in need of a quenching drink. Beside the main pool is the POOLSIDE BAR, a mainly covered area with plenty of seats. At night they light this area with small covered candle lamps on each table. Drinks here were, I thought, a little on the expensive side, as were the basic snack type foods available. Theres also a dartboard here in a separate "conservatory" addition to one side of the
              bar as well as a pool table. I cant quote how much the darts were to hire, but the pool table was 5,000,000 TL (£2 approx) for a half-hour and 9,000,000 TL (£3.50) for an hour. Alongside the poolside bar was the hotel dining area for those guests who had paid for full/half board or for self catering guests who were willing to pay for their meals. As we were self-catering (and Im a cheapskate, the meals were quite expensive) I cannot comment on the food but to me it looked to be being served efficiently and was well presented. However, some guests I spoke to commented that there didnt seem to them to be an awful lot of choice and everyone said the meals were over priced. Each evening ENTERTAINMENT was laid on near the dining area on a small stage area. We stayed there briefly for the "Turkish Night" but to be honest it was nothing special and we preferred to dine at a lovely little restaurant, the AKSOY directly across the road from the hotel. The waiters there provided more than enough genuine Turkish entertainment 7 nights a week! Should you be the sort of person who doesnt like to move very far when youre on holiday then besides everything I have already mentioned, the Pascha has everything you could possibly need to make your holiday a good one. Across from Block One is a small on-site GROCERY SHOP selling all the basics as well as that all-important bottled water. Lining the pathway from the pool area are plenty of other shops and outlets selling anything and everything from camera film to personalised T-shirts, from sarongs and swimsuits to jewellery; theres even a small internet café for those more addicted to the www than me! As I briefly hinted at earlier, the Pascha has its own PRIVATE BEACH. For us that mean a whole 2 minute walk to the sand (please note the sarcasm there), but for the further blocks, the walk couldnt have been any more than 5 minutes. The beach area was divided up neatly into different areas. Ther
              e were plenty of FREE sunbeds to relax on for those who just wanted to soak up the suns considerable heat and a beach volleyball court and football pitch for all those of a more energetic disposition! Theres also a tennis court, but this isn't on the beach, its directly behind block one. There were also some more unique touches; a huge chessboard complete with all pieces, a punch bag and several marked out lanes for games of boules. There was, of course, plenty of sand available so you could do your own thing and with the crystal clear and VERY blue waters of the Mediterranean lapping at the shore, who could possibly want for more? Last but by no means least is the kids club, which operates daily but ONLY in high season which here means July and August. They have a playground for the smaller children plus obligatory "throwing the kids rep in the pool sessions"! The club is divided up into 3 age groups ? under 5s, 5-8 years and 9?12 years. There is also a teenagers club at night; they seemed to meet up in the gaming room near the bar. I cannot comment personally on any of the clubs as my two didnt want to participate, they preferred the "bug mother" approach to the week; but parents I spoke to whose kids had attended the sessions said they were impressed with the activities and level of care shown their children. ~ MY OVERALL IMPRESSION ~ This I can sum up in one short but sweet sentence! I was impressed. Very impressed! The Pascha Bay is a FOUR-STAR hotel and it shows. The whole place is spotless and the cleaning staff work long hours and very hard to keep the place sparkling. Our room was certainly kept in an immaculate condition despite the best efforts of one 6 year old and one 13 year old who challenged the maid service to the limit! The pool is shut at seven each evening for cleaning, in fact I dont recall seeing any rubbish AT ALL whilst we were there. During our weeklong stay we had t
              wo small problems concerning the room, one was a broken wardrobe handle and the other the handle to the room fell off! The wardrobe door handle was fixed BEFORE I had chance to report it to reception which has me wondering if they carry out repairs through telepathic means and the door handle was repaired AS SOON as it was reported. Its pretty good when you can wander down to reception to report something amiss and it is mended by the time you return to your room! If security worries you when you are away from home then this again is the place for you. There are security guards on the gates and they discretely check each visitor who comes through the main gates. Just inside the main gate is the entrance to an underpass that takes you across the road to the Aksoy restaurant and the few shops that are alongside it. You may think that this would present a security risk but the security gatehouse has been positioned perfectly so everyone can be monitored. The guards also take regular walks around the complex and personally we all felt VERY safe whilst staying there and I had no qualms about letting my 13 year old come and go as she pleased. The door to each room/studio DOUBLE locks so each room is as secure as it can be. We certainly had no problems and nor did anyone else I spoke to over the week. Very impressed overall I may have been but I do have a couple of small niggles with the place. The first was the obvious overpricing of the meals, drinks and groceries in the hotel shop. Now this mattered not one jot in the great scheme of things, as a far cheaper shop was just 200 metres away through the underpass and the Aksoy restaurant I couldnt fault for either price or service. It does make me annoyed however that hotels around the world charge blatantly inflated prices and get away with it. My other niggle came on the last day at checkout time (which incidentally was a very generous 12 noon). They lost my passport! Well, to be exact, they claimed ne
              ver to have had it in the first place. The same person who checked us IN checked us OUT and after a little gentle persuasion was made to check EVERY rooms pigeonhole where, low and behold, my passport turned up having been placed in the wrong one! ~ FINAL THOUGHTS ~ Pascha Bay is owned by TUI so if you dont want to travel with one of their tour operators Im afraid you wont get to stay here. Having spoken to one of the waiters at the Aksoy, he told us that this is the first year that British people have stayed at this particular hotel. TUI owns it but have always let it exclusively to their Scandinavian operators. The war changed things somewhat and they found they couldnt fill it so Thompsons were offered the remaining rooms and Im very glad they were! For us, this hotel offered us all that we needed for the perfect holiday. Granted we didnt take up all the activities on offer or use all of the facilities but that was because we didnt need to. Most things we wanted were either on-site or across the road and for everything else Konakli centre was 10 minutes Dolmus (pronounced Dolmush) ride away, with Alanya city another 10 minutes in the other direction. A Dolmus? Its the little local mini-bus type public transport system and an experience all on its own! For us this was perfect but I lost count of the number of BRITISH people I spoke to who, and I will be frank here, acted like a 10 minute PUBLIC TRANSPORT trip was the end of the world and made the hotel too isolated. I only hope that this view doesnt mean that Thompsons drop this hotel next year. Why? Because we are already saving for a return trip? So THANK YOU Pascha Bay. With all the horror stories that tend to abound when it comes to accommodation that comes part and parcel with package holidays it made a refreshing change to find somewhere that is pretty darned close to my idea of perfection. I dont say that lightly and above all else, after years of Independent tra
              vel and near hotel-phobia I cant wait until next summer rolls around! THOROUGHLY RECOMMENDED and FULLY DESERVING all FIVE STARS. For further information check out www.paschabay.com.tr £1 = roughly 2,500,000 Turkish Lira (TL) Incidentally, we paid £279 per adult and £239 per child (weekly price - airfare and hotel on a self-catering basis..told you it was a bargain!)

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                01.09.2003 01:16
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                ~ WHERE? ~ Alanya is situated on the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey and is around an hour and a halfs drive from Antalya (which is the main city of the area) and has the areas International Airport. The airport itself is served mainly by Package Holiday flights but Turkish Airlines fly there direct from the UK daily. The road to Alanya runs along the coast and is of excellent quality, being duel carriageway for around half the distance. ~ BRIEF HISTORY ~ The first real documentation about the town dates from 197BC when Antiochus III of Syria besieged the settlement, then known as Coracesium. The following century, Diodotus Tryphon, a pirate chief overthrew the Syrians and built the (still standing) fortress as his defensive base. The antics of Diodotus eventually provoked Rome into action and Coracesium joined the Roman Empire. From around the forth century AD the town changed its name to Kalonoros (meaning beautiful mountain) but changed again in 1221 when it was taken over by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I. He renamed the settlement Alaiye (city of Ala), after himself! The city flourished around his extraordinary IC KALE (inner citadel), but faded slightly after capture by the Ottomans in 1471. ~ BRIEF OVERVIEW OF ALANYA TODAY ~ With the Mediterranean to the South and mountains to the North, Alanya has had to grow in an East-West direction as the strip of land is situated on is fairly narrow. I soon discovered that the city is best thought of as having two distinct halves; two separate personalities if you prefer. ESKI Alanya (Old Alanya) covers the high peninsula topped by its fortress and defensive walls and YENI Alanya (New Alanya) which covers the area to the East and West of the dominating Old Town, along the sandy beaches. Yeni Alanya consists mainly of newly built hotels and apartment complexes but the inland city area is entirely Turkish in its outlook. As is (Im told) co
                mmon with a lot of Muslim cities, Alanya has its fair share of fountains, in some areas it seems like there is one on every street corner! These come in all shapes and sizes but dont expect them to offer too much relief from the heat. They are all filled with salt water from the sea and besides, in the Turkish summer ? the water gets pretty warm and the marble surrounds almost reach boiling point?SO DONT SIT DOWN?you WILL regret it! Alanya has good transport links with its surrounding areas and a small bus station in the centre of the city. We regularly used the local buses (the Dolmus) to travel in and out of the city. These run very frequently to all hotel areas (amongst others) but are primarily a LOCAL transport network so the majority of the passengers will be locals and not tourists. One thing we noticed was that various companies travel the routes and vie for custom; we quickly learnt which one was the cheapest! ~ ATTRACTIONS ~ On the harbour front and noticeable from quite a distance is KIZIL KULE; probably the most attractive building in the town and is certainly on the majority of postcards! Kizil Kule translates literally as The Red Tower (kizil is Turkish for red) and was built by the aforementioned Seljukid Sultan, Alaeddin Keykubat I in 1226. It is octagonal in shape, 5 storeys tall and constructed entirely in red brick. The lower floor is used as an annex to the Alanya Muzesi (Alanya Museum). To be fair, I didnt check that out, I was far too interested in the views across the water and back up at the tower and beyond? A few metres from the path that runs upward beside the Kizil Kule is a lookout point with good views of the TERSANE (the dockyard). Now youre probably thinking of a dockyard in British, or certainly European terms. So was I when I stood there trying to work out where the heck they could have hidden it. After all, a dockyard/shipyard is hardly small and there I was looking at spectacular s
                cenery without a trace of anything even vaguely industrial! But I think hidden is the right way of describing the dockyard in Alanya. In the sea wall are 5 large openings which I am told are seven metres wide and go back for a distance of around 40 metres (I have no idea, I neglected to take my tape measure. Sorry). See? Hidden shipyard! Each one opens directly into the sea and with their arched openings they looked good if nothing else. Built in 1227 by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I to service his navy, this is the last remaining example of a Selcuk dockyard in Turkey. Now back to that path running beside and upward from the Kizil Kule. This follows the old town walls to the castle at the top. Be very aware though that these walls run for around 6 and a half kilometres before reaching the top and although the climb is relatively gentle (the path snakes backwards and forwards on its ascent) in summer temperatures of around 40 degrees plus; its not for the faint hearted. An alternative route is by road and plenty of taxis wait at the bottom around the Kizil Kule and are only too willing to ferry you to the fort at the top. Fares are around 5,000,000 TL (£2 approximately). Once at the top, the more energetic amongst you may want to attempt the walk in reverse; from the fort back down to the Kizil Kule, but even still, you have to be fully fit to even want to..! The fortress as it is commonly known, or the IC KALE (inner citadel) to give it its official title is THE reason to head to the top of the 250-metre high peninsula. Dating back to beyond Roman times it was Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I who made the fortress the formidable construction is it today. Few structures within the walls at the top actually remain today, but the real draw to coming all the way up is the VIEW. That aside, theres also a small fenced off platform which marks the HURLING ROCK ? the local execution point. Legend says that the condemned man was given a pebble to throw
                ; if it hit the water he was freed, but if it hit the rock/cliff he was heaved over the edge. I have to say the chances of hitting the water with anything were pretty remote? The PENINSULA and its hidden CAVES are a MUST SEE whilst in Alanya. The ONLY way too see them properly is to take a YAT trip, whether it be for a couple of hours or an all day affair. A Yat? A Turkish sailing vessel of course! Impressive all wooden structures with very shallow keels, they can get extremely close to the rugged shoreline of the peninsula. All you really have to do to get yourself a boat trip is take yourself for a walk along the harbour front, where Captains will offer you countless trips along the coast. For the best deal though you should book something in advance ? we booked an all day tour with a local travel agent at a cost of 85,000,000 TL (approximately £34) for the four of us. This included all drinks, a huge buffet style lunch and a trip further out to sea to go dolphin watching. But what did we see? Well after leaving Alanya Harbour, which afforded us some very impressive views back over the city, including the Kizil Kule and the Tersane; the first stop along the peninsula was KORSANLAR MAGARASI (Pirates Cave). Swimming and snorkelling was possible here, with the crew throwing chunks of bread into the water to encourage the fish to come around the boat. Next stop was ASIKLAR MAGARASI (Lovers Cave) and the cave entrance here is slightly above sea level. This cave system is so named because a couple supposedly survived here for three months. Swimmers who get off the boat here are abandoned; the boat moves on around the peninsula to the exit point of the cave, which is around 7 metres above sea level. The brave can jump from that height or the more restrained can climb down the cliff and enter the water from a minimal drop. We did see a local climb further UP the cliff and execute a perfect dive from around 15 metres. Wanted to tell him that th
                e world hates a smarta*se... From here there is one final cave to explore, FOSFORLU (the Phosphorous Cave). At this point in the cliff, the walls are all naturally coated in phosphorus, which makes the cave walls almost glow in the dark. Further along the coastline and around halfway between Alanya and Konakli (the next town heading west) is CLEOPATRAS BEACH where legend says the queen used to bathe. That matters very little really; the boat chugs along the shoreline, rounds a bend and suddenly youre confronted by a large Roman fortification type structure built into the narrow and steep cliff between the water and the road above. This is the road we travelled most days to reach Alanya and I have to say that no sign of this is even signposted from the highway above. Id seen a picture of this in the travel brochure before we left the UK and it was on my list of must-sees. It looked far more impressive in real life and is actually blooming difficult to describe! ~ EATING OUT ~ Cafes, restaurants and bars abound in Alanya and its surrounding area. On some streets it can seem like every other building is a drinking/eating establishment. This isnt a complaint of course, in the heat of the day its just what is required! Theres nothing like sitting outside a small café, drinking an iced coffee and watching the Turkish world go by? I do, of course, have three personal recommendations, two of which are in Alanya and one in Konakli. The OZEN OTEL is a café/bar roughly half way between the harbour and the bus station in Alanya. Plenty of outside seating (complete with parasols), very friendly staff, spotless facilities and ice cold drinks made this our top spot during the ferocious heat of the early afternoon whilst in the city. My second choice is more to do with home town pride than anything else; a Nottingham lass cannot help but be impressed when she walks along the main street behind the harbour and comes across the ROB
                IN HOOD pub! Fully decked out like a Medieval-drinking establishment it was, amazingly, better than one pub I remember from my early twenties in Nottingham that attempted the same thing! Unfortunately the manager wasnt there when we called in so we never did get to learn WHY there is a pub named after an East Midlands folklore hero 2,000 miles from the UK but with its impressive views over the harbour the staff could be more than forgiven? Last but by no means least comes the AKSOY, a restaurant in Konakli, across the road from the Pascha Bay Hotel. Open from nine in the morning until the last patron leaves in the wee small hours, they serve everything from traditional Turkish meals to fast food for the less adventurous child! The staff dress casually during the day, bright Hawaiian style shirts and cropped trousers abound, but come 6pm the traditional black trousers, white shirts and black ties are in evidence. Dont let this put you off though, this particular establishment doesnt echo many other Turkish restaurants that insist on diners smart dress at all times. Dress up by all means, but in the sultry heat of a Turkish evening, trust me you wont want to! Here you can dine inside (the front of the restaurant is completely open) or out, they are surrounded by gardens and have a small play area for children. Happy hour begins at 10.30pm and finishes when the last patron wends his/her merry way home. This is a place where ordering an Irish Coffee includes a free show and children are welcomed with open arms and a high-five ? please bring toys too, the waiters are partial to a quick playtime themselves! ~ SHOPPING ~ Turkey is the land of FAKES especially where clothing is concerned. There appear to be NO copyright laws, so if EXCELLENT quality but unlabelled brand names appeal ? this is THE place to come. Turkey has a huge and thriving textile industry so clothing in general is a good buy, especially leather goods. I bought a (fake) N
                ike branded leather cap for 10,000,000 TL (£4) for example and its top-quality if a little suspect in the copyright department. Other garments that tempted me included leather coats and Im going to have to try and make room in my suitcase next time I go over there as the prices were ridiculously cheap. Dont worry if clothes shopping isnt your scene. Other bargains to be had include ONYX ornaments and tableware, brassware, jewellery (both costume and the real McCoy), the obligatory Turkish rugs and beware if you have kids; toys are very low priced and good quality?You may come home looking like a mobile branch of Toys Are Us if youre not careful! The BAZAAR in Alanya was, to me, a little daunting at first. Whilst the close proximity of the stores/stalls offered respite from the sun, the stallholders are NOT backwards at coming forwards and will try to lure you into conversation at EVERY given opportunity as they try to part you from your hard earned holiday money. A firm ?no thanks? is generally all that is needed to have them moving onto the next passer-by if youre not interested in looking at what they have for sale in the most part. A few are a little more persistent and try to get you to look via your child; that gets a little wearing after a while. There are of course exceptions to the rule and I commend the NACI BAG SHOP and the RED SOUVENIR SHOP for allowing me to practice my haggling skills without any pressure. Haggling is THE thing to try in Turkey. Youll soon get used to not excepting the first price youre quoted if it seems steep. However, try not to take the "p" with the sellers, they have to make a living too you know? ~ FURTHER AFIELD ~ The city of SIDE (pronounced See-day) is around an hours drive west from Alanya and roughly halfway between there and Antalya. From the guidebooks, this should be a perfect holiday destination; it has a lovely little harbour, sandy beaches and enough Roman Ruins to kee
                p the average Time Team dig happy for years. Unfortunately the promise, for me, didnt quite live up to reality. The ruins are slap-bang in the middle of the city and havent been looked after that well so were a huge disappointment. Roman artefacts seem to almost strew the streets at some points in the old town and whilst the photo opportunities are great, surely this too easy accessibility is what will eventually leave the area with no discernible trace of the Roman period? The shopping area situated between the old town and the Mediterranean in my opinion over touristified the harbour front, making it almost like Skegness. Yes the majority of towns/cities in the area have fallen prey to the tourist Lira but Alanya had shown me how this could be done in a very subtle fashion and with minimum impact on what a real Turkish town should be like. Side is already over-built and much work continues; cranes are in evidence everywhere and the whole place, to me anyway had a very negative cloud hanging over it. I dont want to sound overly negative; it did have the occasional high point! The little park area near the harbour is beautiful as is the harbour itself, but overall I dont recommend it as a place to stay or even visit for more than a few hours. See the Roman Ruins and the harbour and you truly have seen the very best that Side has to offer. For Roman history quite literally at your fingertips and in a far better condition than anything Side has to offer visit ASPENDOS, which is midway between Side and Antalya. Aspendos boasts that it has the worlds finest surviving Roman Amphitheatre and I have to say they have that boast just about right. Designed by the architect Xeno and built around 170AD it has seating for 15,000 people. There are 40 rows of marble seats in the lower section, 21 in the one above and at the top is a vaulted gallery. Entry to the theatre itself costs 10,000,000 TL and is well worth it. Ok, so some restoration work has
                obviously taken place but it is in perfect keeping with the rest of the building. The theatre is still in use today, with regular opera performances taking place. We climbed up to the platform that runs between the first and second tier and that was far enough in the heat. There is very little shade in the theatre arena, you have been warned! However standing up there it was very easy to envisage all the centuries of history that the arena has seen and that was without the help of various employees who were dressed as Roman soldiers and wandered around the area! The KURSUNLU SELALESI (Kursunlu Falls) were one of our weeks highlights. Situated roughly 10 kilometres to the north of Antalya and an hour and a halfs drive from Alanya they are a cool oasis in the middle of a brown and dusty landscape. Not high by the worlds standards but one of Turkey?s largest drop waterfalls, the falls are surrounded by a small but very well maintained National Park. The falls themselves are nothing short of breath taking; the cliff edge the water cascades over is covered in greenery and the water bubbles into a small pool surrounded by woodland. Its possible to walk behind the falls themselves, a great blessing and a chance to cool off. Unfortunately, the falls are reached by descending many steps and therefore they are not accessible by the disabled or less able bodied. Outside the park are camels for extortionatly priced rides and even pretty expensive pictures, or you can do what I did ? take a picture and run! There are also souvenir stalls, drinks stands (over priced again) but plus points include a shady picnic area and a childrens playground. We booked a day trip through a travel agency in Alanya to Side, Aspendos and Kursunlu Selalesi. It cost 55,000,000 TL (£22) and included a buffet lunch at a small restaurant just outside Aspendos by the KOPRUCAY (an ancient river) ~ FINAL THOUGHTS ~ Alanya, for us, offered THE perfect hol
                iday destination. The whole area was scrupulously clean, as is the Mediterranean at this point, the people were extremely friendly and welcoming and the city, whilst having tourists in mind hasnt lost the essence of what it really is ? Turkish. Im not one of those people who like to travel thousands of miles only to bask in a little England; I want to experience new cultures and a new way of life. Alanya gave us all that and a lot more besides. Alanya is the perfect place for families to holiday, the beaches slope gently into the sea and the water is crystal clear. Apart from the trek up to the Ic Kale the majority of the streets are flat or only gently sloped which also makes it good for those who are less able bodied. The whole city is, I found, kept scrupulously clean. Litter is a rarity and quickly removed and the streets around the shops seem to be constantly being hosed down. Now quite where all the rubbish goes I have no idea as in some areas finding a litterbin was a task in itself! In short, I thoroughly recommend Alanya to anyone who wants a good holiday that mixes the availability of all things familiar with a good dollop of real Turkish life. We certainly made many new friends and I can see that this will be somewhere we will want to return to again and again? We stayed at the Pascha Bay Hotel in Konakli (around a 10-minute Dolmus ride away), booked with Thompsons Holidays. £1 = roughly 2,5000,000 TL (Turkish Lira)

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                  24.06.2003 23:45
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                  ~WHY GIVE BLOOD?~ Two days ago I saved a life; did you? That in a nutshell is THE reason to take roughly an hour out of your life three times a year. Donated blood is used in many different ways in the NHS to help treat many different conditions. Whole blood is actually used rarely and only in cases of severe trauma where blood loss has been extensive. Most of the time the pint you donate is separated into its components. The red cells are used to treat anaemia, sickle cell disease, and moderate blood loss after accidents. It also helps burns victims prior to surgery. Platelets are of most benefit to cancer patients following chemotherapy treatment and bone marrow transplants. The plasma helps during cardiac surgery and aids patients with liver disease. It is also given to patients who cannot produce clotting factors, such as haemophiliacs. With so many uses for the blood you give its pretty clear why you should hey? Without a consistent supply in this countrys blood bank so many patients would suffer and yes, maybe even die. ~WHO CAN AND WHO CANNOT~ If you are aged between 17 and 59 and in good health, then the general answer is YES you can donate blood! There are of course exceptions, which I shall list here for clarification. You should NOT donate blood if – You are or THINK you may be HIV positive. You are a carrier of Hepatitis B or C or THINK you may have either disease. You are a man who has had anal or oral sex with another man EVEN if a condom was used (personally I HATE this question even though I can see the sense in it, there is just no way around the discrimination involved). You have EVER received payment for sex with money and/or drugs. You have EVER injected recreational drugs (including bodybuilding steroids). You have had, in the last 12 months; sex with anyone who you think may be HIV positive or Hepatitis B or C. You have a family m
                  ember who has CJD. You are unwell (however the end of a common cold is okay). You are pregnant or have a child less than nine months old. You are taking antibiotics or have finished a course of them within the last week. You have had hepatitis, jaundice or a blood transfusion yourself in the last 12 months. You have had a body/ear piercing, tattoo or semi-permanent make up in the last 12 months. You have had acupuncture within the last 12 months unless it was with a NHS approved practitioner. This isnt the entire list but I think you can see that basic common sense prevails with who can and cannot become a blood donor. Most people CAN become blood donors but it is a sad fact that only around a pathetic 6% of eligible people actually DO donate on a regular basis… PLEASE DO NOT register to become a blood donor JUST to get an HIV test. The chance of infected blood getting past the screening stage is VERY small but it is possible and the tests DO NOT always show infection, especially if the infection was recent. ~SIGNING UP~ There are several simple ways of becoming as blood donor. The first is to visit www.blood.co.uk, which is the National Blood Service website. From here you can fill out an enquiry form (which I did) or search for your areas next donation session. You CAN just turn up at a session and register there. You can also telephone 0845 7 711 711, this number is also on BBC2 Ceefax page 465. Basically if you chose to telephone the service or fill out the enquiry form you will be sent a welcome letter, which is fairly swiftly followed by a full welcome pack that includes a video. Around three weeks before the next donor session in your area you will be notified by letter. Remember that at any point during this process you CAN back out, there is no pressure placed on you whatsoever. ~WHAT TO DO BEFORE DONATING~ You will be sent a letter tellin
                  g you when and where to give your first donation. Attached to this is a questionnaire. I filled mine in on the day I went, before I left home. There are general screening questions, plus questions about your current general state of health. Please answer these as truthfully as you can, then sign and date where told. Have something to eat before you donate and drink as much liquid as you can. Now this last part isnt strictly essential and they dont expect you to have drunk that much you cant manage to donate without needing the toilet! However, from experience, the more you CAN drink, the better you will feel afterwards. Blood donation causes a slight drop in blood pressure but fluids counter this effect. ~THE DONATION ITSELF~ When you arrive you will first meet a member of staff who will take your letter from you and give you a number. This gives you an idea of where you are in the queue. ALL first time/returning donors HAVE to see the nurse before donation can take place. Your questionnaire is gone over carefully and there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions if you are unsure of anything. Regular donors skip most of this, as they simply have to be asked if anything has changed since their last donation. If you take any prescription drugs this is the time to mention them and it helps to either have a copy of the prescription or the medication with you so a note of it can be made on your questionnaire. You then sign a consent form in the presence of the nurse. Next comes a slightly painful part; the tip of one of your fingers is pricked to take a drop of blood so your iron levels can be checked. This test takes literally seconds but is necessary to ensure your levels are high enough to allow you to donate. Donation causes your iron levels to drop and the last thing the staff wants is for you to become anaemic! They require an iron level that is slightly higher than average as a result. From here i
                  ts onto the trolleys and they will usually take blood from the arm you DONT normally use; i.e. if you are right handed they will take your donation from your left-hand arm. A blood pressure cuff is placed around the top part of your arm and inflated, then your arm (at the elbow joint) is swabbed with a disinfectant solution for thirty seconds. Then comes the only part that could cause discomfort, the needle insertion. The scratch literally lasts seconds and as soon as the needle is in place the line is taped down to your arm. The cuff is then released, the clamp on the line is released and off you go! Youll be encouraged to pump your fingers in and out of a fist throughout your donation to help the blood to keep flowing. The first part of your donation is channelled into a small reservoir attached to the main line; this blood is reserved for testing (for AIDS, Syphilis, Hep B, and Hep C; for first time donors the blood group can be checked too). After this the blood flows into the familiar bag and a total of 475mls is taken per donation. This is around a pint and is an amount your body quickly replaces. During your donation, which incidentally only takes around ten minutes, youll be regularly asked if you feel okay. Please dont keep quiet if you feel any discomfort at all, the staff WILL stop the donation if you feel unwell. Most peoples bodies adapt immediately to the donation process but some do not due to the sudden lowering of blood pressure. This is why I said earlier, it really is best to drink plenty before you go. Incidentally even if you are unable to complete your full donation due to feeling unwell, any blood you have given WILL NOT be wasted. Incomplete units are used for training purposes by labs and universities. No blood donated is EVER wasted. When your donation is complete then the clamp is put back on the line and the needle quickly withdrawn. Youll be given a small gauze pad to press onto the needle site and
                  told to keep your arm straight as this lessens the chance of bruising. After around five minutes theyll check youre not bleeding; youll be asked to make a fist, then you get a plaster and an impressive gauze pad over the top to cushion the site. Keep this top dressing on for at least two hours, the plaster can be removed after four. ~AFTERWARDS~ From here you get to move on for the free drinks and biscuits! First timers should drink the diluted fruit juice available as it replaces the lost fluid fastest, repeat donors can have tea/coffee/hot chocolate. Take as long as you need here, no one will be rushing you out of the door. There is a member of the medical team in this room and they will ask you several times if you feel okay. Again, if you feel in any way unwell TELL THEM! I personally would advise you give blood at the end of your shift at work, in fact for emergency service workers it is COMPULSARY that they do not donate until after the end of their working day. Dont plan on doing anything vaguely strenuous and no heavy lifting either. If you smoke it is advisable that you wait a couple of hours before lighting up again; and if you are planing to drink alcohol take it SLOWLY and drink plenty of non-alcoholic drinks as well throughout the evening. Basically, just drink plenty of fluids and be aware that you may well feel thirstier than normal for a couple of days. Personally, I find it a good excuse to just chill out and relax for half a day! If at any time during the two weeks following your donation you become ill (apart from a common cold) you MUST telephone the National Blood Service and tell them so as to lessen the risk that whatever you have can be passed on to someone else. Around a month after your first donation you will be sent your blood donor card and your test results. Provided everything went well with your donation and your test results were clear, within 16 weeks you will be sent an appointme
                  nt for your next donation. ~FINAL THOUGHTS~ I gave blood on Friday. Just to reassure you all I am alive and well, maybe a little thirstier than normal but otherwise suffering no ill effects whatsoever! The needle site is a tiny red mark on my arm and the very mild bruising which surrounds it is painless. I will also let you guys into a little secret. It was my first time. I was overwhelmed by the helpfulness of ALL the staff at the session. By the time I was finished I thought if anyone else said "Thank you" to me I very possibly wouldnt get my head back through the door. The whole atmosphere was unbelievably positive and I swear the building itself radiated happy vibes. Everyone there was there for a reason, to save a life or two. I have never met a nicer group of people and I am now proud to be able to hold my head high and boast the virtues of blood donation. It has to rank right up there as one of the best things I have ever done in my life and Im now left wondering why on earth I didnt sign up earlier. Will I be going back? You betcha! Now the only question that remains is very simple. Will you? If just ONE person who reads this decides to go and enrol and becomes a blood donor then I shall be happy…

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                    10.06.2003 22:43
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                    I needed a new shower gel for travelling and Im a slave to the Dove brand name. A marriage made in heaven? Almost, but not quite! As with all relationships there are those niggling little imperfections… Dove shower mousse bears the distinctive trademark Dove white and navy blue colour scheme and comes packaged in a tall, slender pressurised can much in the same style of shaving gel. The outside of the can itself is of a matt finish and smooth to the touch which is surprisingly easy to grip, even when soaking wet. The cap unfortunately is a different matter altogether. On first use it was extremely difficult to wrestle off and after that it has never fitted back on either snuggly or more importantly securely. Now bear in mind that my primary reason for purchasing this product was for travel. Im just glad I tried it at home first. Seated just underneath the slightly dodgy cap is the dispensing nozzle, which is relatively easy to depress. I shudder to think of the mess that would have been created in my luggage had I decided to take this container anywhere! I dont really want to have to travel with a trusty roll of tape just to secure poorly designed caps back onto errant bottles… Its a great shame about that lid really as the product contained within is something pretty special. Too use simply press the release nozzle and squirt out a liberal amount of the mousse into the palm of your hand and then apply as you would any shower gel but with the exception of you cannot use this near your face. The foam expands well when released from the can and smells divine. As far as I can tell this is only available in the "refreshing" variety from the Dove stable but that matters not to me. The scent is a slightly fruity and floral combination, which I happen to adore. The feel of the mousse against my skin is sublime, it is so soft and silky and lathers well. It cleans my skin excellently and rinses off quickly and easil
                    y. Of course it contains all the moisturising properties that Dove are so renowned for which helps with the "skin feel" although I think the claim that they last twenty-four hours is maybe pushing it somewhat! Yes my skin feels lovely and soft after using this product, but as far as keeping it that way for a full day and night goes…no chance. To be fair to Dove though, my skin is always appallingly dry so its hardly surprising that this particular shower product struggles to make much of an impact! It is, however doing much better than many others on the market so definite plus points there for this one. I purchased this shower mousse from Morrisons back in January for I think around the £2 mark (which was on offer at the time, its now more expensive than that unfortunately). Value wise its not doing too badly as its still going strong. Granted I dont use it every day and I have been away (without it) for a number of weeks but that is not bad going. As an expandable mousse you really dont need to use that much per shower. The only other drawback Ive found with this, lid aside, is that as this is a metal container, its impossible to tell how much of the mousse is left. Best guesses have to be taken by picking up the container and feeling the weight thats left in it, or not as the case may be. So all in all this really is a very good shower product. The pampering feel to the mousse is fabulous and coupled with the scent it feels like a much more expensive product than it actually is. I almost feel guilty deducting a star from this, as due to the shonky cap I had to go out and buy something else to travel with… Highly recommended.

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                    • K-Pax (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 20 Ratings
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                      08.06.2003 21:08
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                      A man (Kevin Spacey) carrying no luggage just "appears" in Grand Central Station New York. Mistaken for a mugger he is questioned by the police. As he states “That he had forgotten how bright this planet is” he is, rather unsurprisingly assumed to be a nut and taken to the nearest hospital for assessment. The hospital however, cannot find anything physically wrong with him. No signs of substance abuse, no brain tumour, no epilepsy; in fact nothing that would account for his persisting "delusions". He is then transferred to the care of Dr Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) and we learn this mystery mans name is Prot (rhymes with boat). He claims to come from the planet K-PAX, which is 1,000 light years from Earth and in what we would call the constellation Lyra. He says his planet is around twice the size of ours and orbits the twin suns of K-Mon and K-Ryll, the stars we would call Agape and Satori. The planet K-PAX he tells us has no family structure, that there are no laws or government; as every being in the world knows right from wrong there is no need for them! How did he get to Earth? On a beam of light of course at six multiples of C. Travel has to be faster than the speed of light as Prot quite rightly points out, otherwise the journey would have taken a thousand years… To my mind, Kevin Spacey quite simply shines in this movie with his exceptional portrayal of Prot. He brings him to life with some very simple mannerisms. From his shuffling walk to the way he cocks his head on one side especially when looking around doorways; his half smile and the simple way Prot looks at the world all add up to a wonderful character and Kevin pulls it off with aplomb. His character has an awful lot of dry humour and wit and Spacey achieves the perfect balance of delivering his lines whilst keeping up Prots mostly deadpan face. He also adds a very cheeky little smile when needed and the way that animates the role he is playing
                      is amazing. The role of Prot simply gets better as the movie progresses, the hypnotic scenes towards the end are fantastic and Spacey did an awesome job in my mind to pull them off as well as he did. Im not a fan of Jeff Bridges; in fact I could go so far as to say I usually avoid his movies, as unless the film requires little acting on his behalf hes dire in my opinion. However in this he is fantastic. Granted hes not exactly got to over-tax his skills playing the Doctor and occasionally his grimacing and pouting face manages to make me wince, he played the role extremely well and had clearly done a lot of research into psychiatry before filming began. During the many scenes that Spacey and Bridges are the only players, they work so very well together. The two actors seem to have built up quite a rapport between the two of them and they certainly matched each other and fitted together perfectly. One plays off the other well and neither are trying to "grab the glory" in the acting stakes. They dont need to in any case, their individual roles shine but for different reasons! Of course, any lead roles have to be well supported and this is exactly what happens here. The fabulous additional character roles are all very well cast and acted which certainly helps to turn K-PAX from a simply good movie into a fantastic one. As this film is predominantly in a mental institute there are plenty of characters for Prot and the Doctor to interact with, from a woman with multiple personalities to an obsessive-compulsive. All of these characters have again clearly been well researched and so the actors/actresses playing the parts do so very convincingly and with a great deal of sensitivity to the issues involved with playing the parts of people who are ill. There are some nice little touches throughout the film involving the more perimeter characters; theres a nice touch when Dr Powell is on his train going home and is asked to donate money
                      by a guy wearing a "beam me up" T-shirt and a metal cap; the stereo-typical "person claiming to come from another world"… So is Prot really from the planet K-PAX? Is he an amnesiac or a drug user? Does he have multiple personalities or some kind of psychosis? Sure he can describe life on his planet in great detail and show how K-PAX moves through space around the twin stars but does that make him genuine? He is also sensitive to UV light a feat that no human can achieve; again does this make him a true "alien"? The mystery element to this movie is one that keeps the viewer watching and guessing all the way through, but this isnt the main point to the film by a long way. Prots character is very innocent almost child-like. Human beings have the in-built need to put people into little boxes. We all do it and most of the time without even realising it, but we do it to feel safe and secure. Whether it be by race or religion, by dress or lifestyle we ALL put people into comfortable little niches. As Prot describes an upbringing and life on K-PAX that was the total opposite to how we do things here on earth, he is not hemmed in, imprisoned by this way of thinking. When people talk to him he genuinely listens, he does not judge people as he does not need to put people into categories in order to feel secure. If he really is human doesnt the fact that he does not think or reason as the rest of us do still make him "alien" to us and our concepts of how the world functions? How do we as humans deal with someone who we come across who acts like Prot? Well we have to pop him into one of those understandable categories for our minds to accept him. He cannot be from another planet as that doesnt fit with our egotistical way of thinking. We as a species are very much "up ourselves" and the thought that any race could be way more than advanced that ourselves doesnt sit well with the general populous.
                      Therefore Prot MUST be delusional; its the only thing that fits. But on the other hand, as he claims to have knowledge about another world he must be tested, made to prove himself. This movie truly challenges the way we look at the world and all of the people we come into contact with every day. This is THE point to the whole film. When we come across those harmless people who dont think the way the rest of us do, does that make them wrong? Does it mean theyre ill? For the most part, humans are raised in this world to conform, to all think the same way; when they dont there must be something wrong with THEM. Why? Surely differences are what makes this planet of ours special… In todays day and age when special effects and hype seem to be the only thing that go hand in hand with movie releases, this movie makes such a refreshing change. This is a character piece at its very best. I cannot recommend this film highly enough to you all. Directed by Ian Softley, run time 115 minutes, rated 12.

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                        13.05.2003 03:26
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                        He can remember the conversation quite vividly. "So are you really going to be a gardener?" asked Mickey. "There's no money in it." "Yep" Alan replied. "I wouldnt mind being Percy Chucker." That was the first time, aged 10, that Alan had put into words his aspirations for how he wanted his life to turn out. His ultimate aim if you like. He wanted Percy Throwers job presenting gardening to the public on the television! He still doesnt know how he had the nerve... At that time Mr Thrower was presenting Gardening Club on a Friday evening and it had Alan and his best mate Mickey enthralled. Born in May 1949 in Ikley, Yorkshire he remembers having an interest in all things to do with nature for as long as his memory will stretch back. For this he blames his mother! Living on the doorstep to the moors and with woodland and the nearby river, his Mum used to take him and his younger sister on daily walks and from there his love of all that the great outdoors had to offer became deeply rooted in his brain. Nature was undoubtedly his first love. He clearly remembers times when he went fishing for minnows and learning bird names from various bird spotter books he owned. It was his mother who also encouraged his early passion for growing things himself as she was the gardener of the family and she also gave him the go-ahead to build his first greenhouse, a polythene covered affair at around age 9 or 10. It was in Ikley that the family remained throughout his childhood and he recalls the large extended family including Grandparents and Aunts. He remembers a time of wide-eyed childhood innocence and having lots of fun; well out of school anyway. The only memory he has of nursery school was the fact that they had to take a nap each and every afternoon for which he could see no point as he was always full of energy after lunch! Unluckily that was about as good as it got academic wise for Alan and his school
                        days were virtually all downhill from then onwards. He says that for most of his time at school his brain was "fuddled" and its clear that he was both a late learner and just not academically minded. He recalls getting into trouble for being caught inside his primary school during a very wet breaktime; something which was expressly forbidden. He remembers getting the cane across his hand several times for that and trying hard to be brave! Not surprisingly; and it certainly was no shock to him, that he failed his eleven plus examination and went to a secondary modern school where he was introduced to cross country running. Also from his childhood days he remembers all the family holidays they took although he has no idea how his parents ever managed to afford them. Life for him and his sister was certainly fun but he does know that life must have been pretty tough for his Mum and Dad. Each December 1st the cellar under their house became "out of bounds" to himself and his sister although back then they had no idea why and certainly didnt make any connection between that annual event and Christmas! After all, Santa was to do with chimneys and not cellars... He does know that it was his Dad who made most of their presents every year and he was, through the years, the proud owner of many a carefully made and well painted wooden toys including a full train set. He became a bell ringer, a singer in the church choir and a reluctant scout. He partook in bellringing to make himself some money to supplement his shilling a week pocket money...after all what child can live on that when theyve reached double figures in age?! He also quickly cottoned on that you got paid extra for weddings and that it was possible to ring the bells before the service, fly down from the belfry as the bride arrived at the church and run round to the vestry, don his choral vestments and make the back row of the choir before the bride had reached the
                        chancel steps! He wasnt he pointed out "mercenary", just showing some basic business sense... From here we discover how he left school aged 15 as, in his head teachers words he "Wasn't going to amount to anything" and went to work at his local councils nurseries. From there he took a year long basic Horticulture course and then went on to be one of the select band to pass through Kew gardens own complete horticultural teachings. At this point Im going to leave describing in depth about whats actually in this book, as the rest, they say, is history! This whole book is written in Alans own and unique style. Full of cheeky Yorkshire humour you can truly imagine him sat beside you and hear him reading this to you as you turn the pages. Its down to earth and honest as only something written by a true Yorkshireman can be and it has lost nothing by being put into book form. He states that these are "memoirs" and that this book isnt a biography. He thinks that those latter types of books are only written by more worthy and older people than himself! Having read it I think hes got it right as biographies do tend to be more in-depth and detailed than this is although that doesnt at all detract from him telling his life story so far. Mr Titchmarsh is a very private person so I can quite understand him not wanting to go into incredible levels of detail and besides by not falling for the "every minute has to be told in detail" trap this book has managed to maintain his very own brand of humour. During his life so far he has met some pretty famous and important people including The Queen, Nelson Mandella and Julia Roberts (twice). Even when describing these events he maintains his wry amusement and is at times almost self-depreciating. I think he still doesnt actually believe that he did indeed manage to get what he wished for at age ten and that he has become as popular as he is. Hes always seemed
                        to me to be a very "grounded" (no pun intended) person and this book has merely served to reinforce this in my mind. Oh and dont worry if youre not very green fingered and plant names leave you baffled. That was the only concern I had before picking this up to read; that some parts would be too complicated as whilst I do love gardening all those complex Latin names leave me totally befuddled! This is written in such a way that having any knowledge at all in all things gardening just isnt necessary. A totally engrossing book, I found it to be a true page-turner and Id finished this in just a few short days. At 314 pages long; broken down into 42 short chapters and interspersed with photographs many of which are from Alan's own family album, it is a must have I would say for anyone who is a fan of Mr Titchmarsh or for anyone whos just interested in the lives of the rich and famous. ISBN 0 340 76542 9 The price below reflects the cover price for my Hardback copy...

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                          12.05.2003 02:32
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                          The Sydney Tower is probably as famous a landmark in Sydney as that bridge and that opera house! Sitting on top of the Westfield Centrepoint shopping complex and reaching quite literally for the skies, it is visible right across the city and for miles beyond. Construction of the shopping centre began in 1970 with the first stores opening in 1972. The Tower itself was built later and opened to the public in 1981 and provides the highest Observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. At first glance, the 305 metre tall edifice doesnt look that safe; the Tower is narrow in its reach upwards, with the decks looking almost too large to be stable at the top. It is, however, one of the safest constructions in the world and could withstand earthquakes and extreme wind conditions! The tower is held in place/stabilised by fifty-six cables that each weighs a hefty seven tonnes. Apparently if you laid all the fibres in the cables end-to-end they would stretch from Sydney to New Zealand. Also aiding in the stability of the construction is a 162,000-litre water tank right at the very top. This tank is also the Towers primary damping-system should the worst ever happen and there are also 1504 stairs from top to bottom. These are monitored by surveillance cameras and provide an emergency exit from the Tower. There are also countless sprinklers and the whole kit and caboodle far exceeds normal building standards. Why am I telling you guys all this? Because despite having conquered my fear of heights in Melbourne by ascending to the Observation Deck fifty-five floors up Rialto Tower, I was still more than a little dubious at scaling something much taller. The sheer distance to the ground, should something go wrong, did worry me so I studied the tourist literature available VERY carefully before I took the plunge and decided to give it a go! Sydney Tower is accessed either by walking through the Centrepoint shopping centre and following the escalat
                          ors upwards, or directly from Market Street where a lift takes you the 3 floors up to the PODIUM LEVEL. On this level there is a gift shop, the entrance to the "Skytour Experience", the Tower lifts and the ticket office. Pricing when I went in February 2003 was around A$19 per adult but most tourist brochures offer vouchers that allow a 20% discount; my ticket cost A$15.80. This ticket does cover admissions to both the Tower and the aforementioned Skytour, but more about that later! On the day I went there were no queues as it was mid-week and the longest wait I had was for a lift to take me up the Tower. I have to admit to being more than a little bit nervous as I stood awaiting the elevator. The lifts are surprisingly small and wedge shaped, they are build to all slot together around the central shape of the tower. It took around 40 seconds to ascend to the OBSERVATION DECK, the ride was beautifully smooth (although my ears did pop) and was far better than the express elevator that took me up Rialto Tower when I wanted to go back down and retrieve my stomach! The observation deck is number FOUR of the levels at the top of the Tower and as such is as far up as the public can go. Stepping out of the lift I made my way to the windows and WOW what a view! The windows stretch from floor to ceiling and slope slightly downwards (they are further out at the top than the bottom) which in reality gave me a very weird, almost stomach churning feeling. What I mean is that when you look down, you are literally looking STRAIGHT down. The panorama is fully 360 degrees but due to other buildings being in the way the Opera House is NOT visible although it says in all the literature that you read about the place that it is. But, who cares! The view is breath taking and on a clear day like I had the pleasure of, you can see for miles. Fixed and most importantly FREE binoculars are spaced around the entire circumference and allow for close-ups of the dis
                          tant sights. The harbour, to the north and east looks splendid from this height and clearly visible are all the little yachts and other sailing craft on the water as well as Manly in the further distance. The Harbour Bridge is also clearly visible in the panoramic view north. Looking South you can see as far as Botany Bay and beyond with the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) amongst other structures that can be seen. The view to the west stretches as far as Paramatta and shows clearly how far the conurbation has sprawled. Friendly staff members are on hand to answer any questions you may have at the information desk and FREE guided tours are also available to tell you all about exactly what you can see. As I wandered around the windows I kept one ear on the tour that was in progress; you really dont need the tour to work out what is what on the horizon, there are clear labelled photographs for each of the four main compass points. When youve had your fill of the spectacular scene that is laid out in front of you there is a gift shop to browse around with prices to match the high level you are on! Toilets are also available, the cubicles, like the lifts are built around the Towers centre and so are a bit of an odd shape! Via a curved staircase you can descend from the Observation Deck to the COFFEE SHOP and BAR located on level THREE. Serving great hot and cold drinks as well as good quality snack food it has to have the best views of any café in the world! Both the drinks and food were being sold at what I would describe as slightly over-inflated prices, but Sydney does tend to be an expensive place anyway. Levels ONE and TWO are where you will find the SYDNEY TOWER RESTAURANTS. Said to be the largest in central Sydney I cannot comment on either of them, as I didnt have the privilege of high-rise dining. Only open at night they run on a reservation only basis and therefore the Tower lifts completely bypass them on the way up and down
                          the Tower. As I have already said, the Observation Deck is only one part to this remarkable feat of engineering. When I had had my fill of the view it was time to get back in the lift and head for part two of the deal; the SKYTOUR EXPERIENCE. The entrance to this is back down on the Podium level and does involve a small amount of waiting around, as there is around a 10 minute gap between each "expedition" (show). Once inside youre led to the ORIENTATION CAMPSITE, which is the first of FOUR "pre-shows". This is really nothing exciting as it is merely an introduction to the rest of the experience. From here you go into the next room, the EXPEDITION TENT. Lit only by small lamps you take your seats, pop on a headset, close your eyes and listen to yarns from the early European settlers. From here it is on to the DISCOVERY CHAMBERS. Here your guides are in holographic form and take you on a quick tour through four unique Australian landscapes with the aid of scenic art and animated models. This part was quite interesting and was even more so when we all discovered that the auditorium you are sat in moves! From here you walk through the VIRTUAL CAVE, which is climatically controlled to simulate real caves. There are replicas here of Aboriginal rock etchings and photographs are permitted. This is the final pre-show and from here you move on to the piece-de-resistance, THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN EXPEDITION RIDE. Real motion seats, which you are secured into "roller-coaster" style, face a 180-degree screen. The "movie" shown takes you on a journey across this vast country and with the accompanying sound effects coupled with the fact that your seat moves A LOT, it was a hair-raising ride at times! This part of the show really does take audience participation to a whole new level… We all came out of the auditorium asking if we could go round again! So thats it and as you can see there is far more t
                          han initially meets the eye with the Sydney Tower. Im glad Ive been up it, but still not entirely sure if I would repeat the experience. The view from the Observation Deck is nothing short of spectacular but the effect from the sloping glass a little disconcerting! I was glad I hadnt chosen this particular structure with which to try and cure my phobia of heights, I may well have come down a gibbering wreck! I recommend this to anyone who isnt afraid of heights but please pick a clear day to ascend. From the hostel I stayed in the Tower was clearly visible and on one memorable evening we watched the fog roll in from the sea and the cloud descend until all that was left of the Tower was the bottom third. I would NOT have liked to be on any of the levels up there when that happened. Must have been eerie to say the least…. ~ CONTACT DETAILS ~ Sydney Tower and Skytour Podium Level 100 Market Street Sydney NSW 2000 Tel – (02) 9223 0933 One Australian Dollar = approximately 35 pence.

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                            11.05.2003 00:48
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                            Ever since I was a small child I have been fascinated with jigsaw puzzles and have amassed quite a collection over the years. However I have nowhere "safe" I can spend time constructing them as, lets face it, kids and tiny puzzle pieces dont usually make good bed-fellows! Around two years ago I discovered this website and I am now able to get my fix on a daily basis without having to worry about my darling children giving my latest creation flying lessons… ~ Home Page ~ The home page is very clearly laid out and relatively clutter-free. To the left is a very simple menu for you to make your selection from. Theres the puzzle of the day, the gallery or you can subscribe to the site. On the right is a selection of sample puzzles ranging from a simple six-piece classic cut to a complex 240-piece square cut. ~ The Puzzles ~ The picture gallery contains over 800 different pictures for you to make your selection from and these are divided into twelve distinct categories ranging from animals to world flags. Once you have browsed the different choices available then you get to choose your own particular level of difficulty from the drop-down menu above the picture selections. By default this is set to the 48-piece classic cut. The easiest puzzle cut is the six-piece classic and the hardest in my humble opinion is the 240-piece square cut as the pieces are so small! In between these two levels of difficulty are seven classic cut choices, triangular cuts, bulbs, circles, bricks and swirls. My personal choice is currently the 247-piece triangle cut as that gives my grey matter an excellent workout! Once youve worked out which picture you want to make and how many pieces you want to attempt, simply click on the picture you have chosen and the puzzle will load up in the same window. This takes mere seconds whatever your Internet connection happens to be, with my Cable Modem its around a te
                            n-second wait. When it has loaded you will be faced with a fair sized area covered in broken puzzle pieces! Constructing the puzzle couldnt be simpler. Just left-click with your mouse on the piece you want to move, then drag it and drop it (release the mouse button) where you think it should fit/where you want to move it to. When you get a "match" the pieces will connect together with a satisfying click sound. The site will time you while youre constructing your masterpiece and underneath the puzzle window is a small graph that shows your own personal time against the fastest ever completion time as well as the average. Should you instead opt to make the puzzle of the day it will of course load in exactly the same way as any of the other pictures only this time you wont get a choice of puzzle cut; Jigzone make that decision for you… ~ Join the Site ~ Registration to join Jigzone couldnt be simpler and the best thing is its FREE! Simply click the link on the home page and follow the basic instructions. You need to choose a user name as well as the obligatory password and e-mail address. A few more boxes later and thats it, you’re a member… So why join Jigzone? Well there are a couple of benefits if you happen to be a jigsaw puzzle freak like I am! First of all you get a link (from the homepage) to your very own member page and from this you can subscribe to the puzzle of the day feature. This is where you get to choose the format you would like your daily puzzle to be in; you can select your choice of puzzle cut as well as if you want to be able to see the finished picture or if you want no help at all! My own current choice is to receive the link to the puzzle of the day with a 247-piece triangle cut and WITHOUT the guide picture. As this is an American site the e-mail with the link tends to arrive in my hotmail box mid-afternoon due to the time difference. You can also upload your own pictures to your very own puzzle album, test them (watch them be broken up as 20-piece classic cut puzzles) and then you can e-mail them out to your friends in a choice of ALL the cuts that are available. Unfortunately, the only way you can try out your own pictures as puzzles in anything more complex than the 20-pieces is to e-mail yourself the link… You of course get the choice whether to keep your photo album private or to share it with all other Jigzone members. Jigzone also allow you to use the "link" to your own puzzles to be integrated into your own website. ~ Drawbacks ~ There are a couple of these I have found throughout my time using this site. The first is the dreaded Spam that comes in the form of pop-ups. Everytime you finish a puzzle and either go back to the home page or to do another puzzle, like magic a pop-up appears. Very annoying! Over the last few months another "glitch" has occasionally appeared. This hiccup shows itself by making the puzzle pieces vanish everytime you get them to click together. Now puzzles without the guide picture I can manage, but Im not so good as to be able to complete a task that is rapidly rendering itself invisible! ~ Overall Impression ~ Well if you havent already gathered, I am quite addicted to this site which is probably why I visit it each day, if only to complete my daily jigsaw. Its an excellent place for puzzlers of all ages and all abilities. My kids love it and it can be tailored to them as they grow and their individual talents increase. I love the fact that I can upload my own pictures and then complete them in whatever cut I choose; it makes the whole concept so much more personal. The satisfaction I get on a daily basis for completing the set challenge far outweigh the minor niggles I have outlined above. The best bits? No more lost puzzle pieces and no more puzzle
                            s launched into space by a giggling five year old…

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                              09.05.2003 00:40
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                              ~ History ~ Nottingham is the principal city of Nottinghamshire and the county is divided by the RIVER TRENT, which for centuries also was the dividing point of the nation. The first mention of Nottingham itself was in the Anglo-Saxon chronicles of AD 867 when it was then known at Snotengaham. The actual shire of Nottingham was created in the 10th century and was raised to county status by King Henry VI in 1448. During the civil war, Charles I chose here to raise his standard; probably due to the towns past record for defending the monarchy. However the call to arms received a poor response and as soon as the King had marched away the town became a Parliamentarian stronghold. To begin with, Nottinghams prosperity rested largely on the River Trent and its main crossing point TRENT BRIDGE. Not only was it the perfect way to get goods in and out of the town, but also it was an opportunity to raise revenue by charging tolls. The earliest industries were coal, wool dyeing and brewing. By the mid 18th century Nottingham also had a thriving textile and lace industry. Over the last century or more three large companies have dominated Nottingham; Boots The Chemists, Players and Raleigh Cycles. ~ City layout ~ Nottinghams city centre area is pretty compact with everything within easy walking distance. Dominated by the castle on its rocky outcrop to the west, the city centre mainly runs from the Victoria Shopping Centre at the north to the Broadmarsh Centre to the south. Most streets running between both Shopping Centres are pedestrianised which makes shopping in Nottingham such a pleasant and pleasing experience! In the centre of all this is a large open space, the OLD MARKET SQUARE, affectionately known to us locals as Slab Square. Bordered by shops on three sides and the imposing edifice that is the COUNCIL HOUSE on the other and with its twin fountains, fabulous summer time floral displays and seating ar
                              eas, makes this a very amenable place to just watch the world go by. ~ Shopping ~ Nottingham has, so I am reliably told by one online site, over 800 shops although I have to say Ive never counted them! Whether its a large department store youre looking for, or a well-known high street name or even a small and specialist retailer, Nottingham has something for you. The VICTORIA CENTRE (the Viccy), which was opened in the early 1970s on the site of Nottinghams old Victoria railway station, is on two floors and was recently extended. It houses two department stores; House of Fraser and John Lewis, many high street chain stores (Smiths, Top Shop, Next, Mothercare, Disney, MVC) and two Boots shops; one of which is the largest in the country. At one end is a fountain/clock that plays a cute little tune each hour and has practically become a tourist attraction in its own right. The VICTORIA MARKET (full integrated into the shopping centre) is the place to go for all your typical market stall bargains, NOTTINGHAM LACE and is a cheap and cheerful place to sit and have a cup of coffee in one of its many cafes. The BROADMARSH CENTRE is also on two floors but isnt as big as its older cousin. However plans have been released that will make it overshadow the Viccy Centre as its apparently going to at least double in size! It also has its own department store, Allders, and an array of high street names including BHS, Hobbycraft, Poundstretcher, Wilkinsons and Thorntons. By the main entrance here is a large open area that contains a branch of Café Delifrance and to be honest thats the only halfway decent place to grab a drink and a sit down here. With so many streets in the city centre that are pedestrianised, theres more to shopping here than just in those two centres. Debenhams is on the Market Square as is Littlewoods; and CLUMBER STREET has a vast array of smaller shops including Lush, Superdrug and H. Samuels. Both the FL
                              YING HOR SE WALK (an old pub) and EXCHANGE ARCADE (under the council house) house exclusive and designer boutiques that are well worth a look as long as money is no object to you! When here the LACE MARKET/HOCKLEY area shouldnt be missed for its smaller "trendy" shops, unique outlets and eateries. ~ Tourist attractions ~ The CASTLE gatehouse and walls are all original and medieval but the original castle was destroyed by fire at the end of the civil war. In its place was built a "ducal" palace that is now a museum housing some fine exhibits from Nottinghams past and it also has fine and contemporary art displays. The castle grounds are all landscaped and offer some spectacular views over the city and for miles beyond on a good clear day. Just outside the castle gates is a statue of ROBIN HOOD, which has to be the most photographed object in the city. Opposite this statue is the SEVERNS BUIDING, which is probably Nottinghams oldest building and is another good place to buy official NOTTINGHAM LACE. Below the castle rock is the BREWHOUSE YARD MUSEUM which houses some excellent exhibits tracing Nottingham life back through the ages. This is the place to come for examples of more everyday items all set within groups to put them into context. This museum also has very knowledgeable guides but unfortunately isnt wheelchair/pushchair friendly. A minutes walk from the castle brings you to the MUSEUM OF COSTUME AND TEXTILE. This charts fashion changes down the years and shows the importance of the textile industry to Nottinghams heritage. The TALES OF ROBIN HOOD, (a two minute walk away from the castle) on Maid Marion Way is a ride through medieval history during which you get to experience the sights, sounds and smells of life all those years ago. Underneath many of the streets of Nottingham especially around the castle and Broadmarsh are CAVES; over 400 hundred of them in total. Some of them
                              are accessibl e from the first floor of the Broadmarsh Centre and the tour takes you through caves used as tanneries, air raid shelters and Victorian slums. Not all caves are available for viewing; some are classed as being unsafe and others are still in use under the citys many pubs! A short walk across the city centre brings you to the old SHIRE HALL, which has now been turned into the GALLERIES OF JUSTICE. Here you can learn practically all there is to know about the British justice system through the ages; from the gallows out in the courtyard, the Victorian courtroom, the County Goal and right through to modern crime scene investigations. Nearby, in the LACEMARKET area is the MUSEUM OF LACE. Nottingham paved the way in lace making machines, which took the production out of the cottages and into factories and the history is shown here. The scientist George Green is remembered at GREENS MILL in Sneinton, which is a working windmill that he once owned and it is now a science centre. Once a year, during the first week in October, Nottingham hosts the GOOSE FAIR, the largest travelling fair in Europe. Its basically a convergence of lots of smaller fairs that all come together in Nottingham for their end of year finale. Now held on THE FOREST on Mansfield Road (a 10 minute walk from the city centre heading north) its a 3-day extravaganza of lights, noise, big rides and side shows. Its name dates back centuries from when an annual farmers fair was held in the market square. Nowadays its one place where asking for a cock-on-a-stick wont get you slapped... ~ Parks and green spaces ~ In total, within the city boundary are 32 parks and gardens so its just not possible to list them all here along with their various attributes so I will just stick to the two most popular and well known ones… To the south west of the city centre is WOLLATON HALL and its surrounding PARKLAND. Designed by Robert Smythson an
                              d built in 1588 it is now the home to the citys NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM. The stables are home to the INDUSTRIAL MUSEUM, the STEAM ENGINE HOUSE and the VISITORS CENTRE. Set in 500 acres of lush green grass with its own lake and free roaming deer, Wollaton Hall makes an excellent place to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The ARBOURETUM slightly to the north of the city centre was opened in 1852 following the Enclosures Act (1845) deemed all towns and cities needed public garden spaces. Its currently Grade II listed and contains a bandstand, small lake, aviaries as well as various themed-planted borders. This is a popular spot for the citys business folk taking lunchtime break in the summer as well as for families who just fancy a breath of fresh air whilst staying in the heart of Nottingham. ~ Sports ~ Nottingham is of course home to two football clubs, NOTTS COUNTY and NOTTINGHAM FOREST. With County playing at Meadow Lane on the Northern bank of the Trent and Forests City Ground directly opposite them on the southern bank these two teams are as close as two teams could be placed in a city. Notts County are the oldest surviving club in the football league and the rivalry between the two clubs is as fierce today as it ever was, their proximity is about the only thing thats close with them! If soccer isnt your thing, then theres always the RUGBY club, or you can watch Nottinghamshire CRICKET club playing their games at TRENT BRIDGE which of course attracts Test Matches. If neither of those appeals then you could try the RACECOURSE out at Colwick (an eastern suburb) where you can watch horseracing or greyhound racing, or you could watch the slalom canoeists and the rowers at the NATIONAL WATERSPORTS CENTRE at Home Pierpoint. If youre more of a hands-on sort of person you can ice skate at the brand spanking new NOTTINGHAM ICE CENTRE, which is part of the new NOTTINGHAM ARENA. Here you
                              can also watch speed sk ating and the NOTTINGHAM PANTHERS, our ice hockey team. Just round the corner is the 10 pin bowling centre which also has a bar and café. At the TENNIS CENTRE there is an international tournament in the week before Wimbledon and its also now one of the top training centres in the country. Nottingham of course boasts plenty of LEISURE CENTRES most of which have swimming pools. Nothing Olympian naturally but all of them family friendly, especially the one at RUSHCLIFFE that is more like a fun park! ~ Cinema/theatres/concerts~ Following what seems to be a national trend, Nottingham now only has one small cinema showing the latest releases (The Savoy on Derby Road). To watch an up to date movie you have two choices. You can go to the new WARNER VILLAGE complex in the city centre or to the SHOWCASE out at Clifton. Small budget and foreign films are shown at the BROADWAY MEDIA CENTRE, again in the city centre. For theatre goers theres the old THEATRE ROYAL with its white pillared exterior and multi-tiered plush interior, the PLAYHOUSE which is a far more modern building and the LACE MARKET THEATRE which shows modern and contemporary dramas. There are three primary concert venues in the city. The oldest is the ALBERT HALL with its old multi-piped organ, which is used primarily for classical concerts and choral events. The ROYAL CENTRE hosts larger classical concerts, comedy evenings and for many years pop and rock concerts. It has now been overshadowed by the NOTTINGHAM ARENA, which has seating for 8,000 and now holds all major gigs with the capacity to attract the biggest names in the music industry. ~ Pubs/clubs/restaurants ~ Nottingham has hundreds of pubs and bars ranging from the very plain to modern and to the most upmarket so there really should be something there to suit everyones tastes! Yes there are gay pubs and clubs too so theres absolutely no excuse for anybody not
                              to have a good night out! I know that Nottingham has become synonymous with trouble at night fuelled by drink, but that is isolated to the city centre at weekends and with a population of around 50,000 students then things have always been lively anyway. The city boasts a wide range of restaurants from traditional British fare to many other nationalities. Theres also a wide range of price options, from the cheap and cheerful to the very posh and exclusive. Nottingham also boasts what is believed to be the oldest inn in England and its claim is certainly world famous. YE OLDE TRIP TO JERUSALEM dates from 1189, the same year Richard the First was crowned and its name is probably connected with the fact that Richard made the third crusade to the Holy Land. In those days a "trip" meant a resting place on a journey and as the castle on the rock above was a royalist stronghold, the inn was a break point in the journey to Jerusalem; hence the TRIP to Jerusalem. ~ Transportation ~ Getting around Nottingham and its suburbs is made easy with its excellent public transport system. From rail to buses, park and ride to the soon to be opened first tram line and to the local airport Nottingham seems to be light years apart from other large cities with its integrated transport network. CITY TRANSPORT buses are the main operator for all services within the city boundaries and TRENT & BARTON buses serve the outlying towns and villages of Nottinghamshire as well as further afield into Derbyshire and even up to Manchester. The city centre has two BUS STATIONS. The VICTORIA BUS STATION is a plastic and glass modern affair built to replace the old one when the Shopping Centre was extended. This station serves mainly Trent/Barton buses that stay within the shire boundaries. The BROADMARSH BUS STATION is a dark and dingy affair underneath the Shopping centre car park. This again serves Trent buses that mainly travel further afi
                              eld and is also the central point for all NATIONAL EXPESS services. The TRAIN STATION, a couple of minutes walk from the Broadmarsh has 6 platforms and has recently been cleaned up and refurbished. CENTRAL TRAINS are the main operators from here and offer regular services to as diverse destinations as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Skegness, Norwich and Worksop (on the re-opened Robin Hood Line). MIDLAND MAINLINE is the company that run trains to London. They offer an hourly high-speed service to the capital as well as an hourly slower service. The high-speed version furnished by Intercity 125 trains makes the journey in around an hour and a half. The City Council runs 4 park-and-ride schemes across Nottingham allowing car drivers to park their cars safely outside the main city centre and then travel in on buses. The cost for this is by the carload and varies from £1.50 to £2.50. The car parks for this are all security conscious and problems are rare. Rarer still are problems with the cities many car parks for those who want to bring their cars right into the centre. Charges are reasonable to high but most of the car parks make shopping easy as they are positioned around the shopping centres. 2003 is the year of the tram for Nottingham with the first line of the NET network due to open in November. NET stands for Nottingham Express Transit and this first line will run from the railway station up to Hucknall. Much disruption has been caused with the construction work over the last few years but now the final touches are being put in place and soon the lines will be powered up and testing will begin. ~ Accommodation ~ Nottingham has accommodation to suit everyone’s budgets. Theres everything here from a backpackers hostel to small family run guesthouses; and from larger hotels to known chains like Holiday Inn and Hilton. Further out of the centre there are also several campsites and theres always Centr
                              e Parks…. Hopefull y this guide to my hometown has given you all an insight into the place that is fast becoming much maligned in the press. Ive lived here for my entire 35 years on this earth and I love it! Nottingham has plenty to offer visitors whether they are of the day trip variety or for people who want to base their holidays here. We certainly do well tourist wise with many thousands of overseas visitors flocking here each year, in particular Americans and the Japanese. If you do decide to pass by and take a look, please remember that there is way more to my town than Robin Hood!

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                              • Kenco Ice Cappio Mocha / Coffee / 1 Reading / 16 Ratings
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                                08.05.2003 01:03
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                                A good friend of mine introduced me to the concept of iced coffee the first time I visited Australia. Love at first taste with this particular chilled drink soon became an addiction. Iced coffee in Australia is big business, is available in cartons in all good supermarkets and cafes and delicious. Unfortunately back in the UK there was just nothing available to satiate my cravings; this country just doesnt do iced coffee. Then my eagle eyes spotted something unusual on the shelves at my local Morrisons in amongst the regular jars of coffee. I had caught a glimpse of something that I thought might be the answer to my heartfelt prayers. Ice Cappio from Kenco promised me "smooth coffee indulgence". Ok so I had to chill it first before consuming, it was in a can instead of a carton, there was only a paltry 200mls of drink and it cost a whopping £1.29. My hopes were high; finally I could treat myself to an iced coffee without the hassle of having to make my own! The lengths an addict has to go to satisfy her passion… After leaving the can in the fridge all day to chill I was filled with eager anticipation. Retrieving it I settled down and gave the container a quick glance over and a good job I did. I was about to shake the can in exactly the same way I would give a carton in Aussie a quick burst of agitation. "Please do not shake" says the writing on the back. I pondered that statement for a moment or two, read the rest of the blurb on the back of the can and pretty quickly discovered why I shouldnt shake it; this metal object contains, wait for it, a widget! Now I was a little worried. The drink I was so eager to swill around my mouth was supposed to be iced and not fizzy coffee. I was also being instructed to pour said drink into a glass after opening, for optimum results you understand. My heart was sinking by the second. Whatever happened to the open and pour down your throat method? I gripped the ring pull and t
                                ugged. The seal broken I heard an unmistakable bubbling accompanied by a huge hiss of escaping gases. I was now more than a little worried; I was wondering what the heck was in there! Holding the container up to my nostrils I gave the opening a tentative sniff. The coffee aroma was strong and filled me with renewed hope. Maybe this was going to be alright after all. Not being able to resist long enough to grab a glass from the kitchen I took a swig from the can. A very weak and watery coffee tasting liquid hit my taste buds, but there was something else there, a distinct and very nasty underlying tang. I could distinctly taste something metallic. This first mouthful was half swallowed and half spat clear across my computer monitor. Fetching a cloth and a glass from the kitchen whilst swearing under my breath I resolved to try again, nothing could be that bad, surely? Carefully and slowly I poured the beverage into the glass. It did look like coffee I have to say and the aroma given off was certainly powerful enough to re-start my salivary glands that had been somewhat stunned into inactivity by the prior assault on them. There was also a good amount of "froth" but I think that came from the fact that this is a deliberately aerated product. Taking a deep breath and saying a quick prayer I took a sip…and spat this mouthful out as well. Theres just no way around it, this stuff really is nasty. The metallic undertone is present regardless of how you decide to drink this and is extremely unpleasant. The coffee itself is thin and watery which isnt surprising considering water is the major ingredient. Im not going to list what is in this revolting concoction, but if I say that milk and cream only constitute around thirty percent of the total liquid content I think the facts speak for themselves! The taste is only part of this nightmare of a thirst quencher. It cloys and almost sticks to the roof of your mouth and certainly doesn&
                                #39;t quench thirst; in fact it does the exact opposite and leaves your mouth drier than ever. I only had a few swigs of it and yet I could taste the darned stuff for hours afterwards. Not only does this product slightly worryingly contain a widget; it is aerated, as I have previously mentioned, with nitrogen and nitrous oxide. Now the latter, for those of you who dont know, is laughing gas. My first thought when I spotted that on the can was that theres nothing remotely amusing about this abomination of a drink. My second thought was that this must have been what the Kenco bigwigs were high on when they came up with this downright awful product and they must still be chuckling to themselves that people are buying it… Now to be fair to Kenco, I shall point out that this is sold as a coffee "flavoured" drink as I discovered when I read the small print. That said however, nowhere on the container does it say "also flavoured with something very peculiar"! Thanks Kenco, but if I become anaemic I will take iron tablets…and is there now a high chance I will rust if I come into contact with water? I do usually like Kenco coffee, its not my brand of choice but I wouldnt run screaming if I was served a cup. It was the Kenco name that grabbed me when I saw this on the shelf in the supermarket. A name I could trust not to stuff up, or so I thought. Kenco, do yourselves a favour. Head out to Australia, see how this SHOULD be done and then try again. If thats not possible, please try and come up with something that is actually coffee ONLY flavoured. One Rachel was severely harmed during the making of this review, the monitor made a full and complete recovery and several Kenco directors should be flogged mercilessly for putting this dire effort onto the market…

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                                • Singapore Airlines / Airline / 0 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                                  05.05.2003 00:03
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                                  Singapore Airlines as we know them now them only came into fruition in October 1972, which makes their name relatively new in the world of long-haul travel. The history of the airline can however be traced back to 1947 when Malayan Airlines began operating internal flights within Malaysia. In 1963 its name changed to Malaysian Airlines and then again in 1966 to Malaysian-Singapore Airlines in reference to the fact that both Governments were funding the business. In 1972 MSA ceased to exist and was replaced by Malaysian Airline System and SINGAPORE AIRLINE. Back then they had a flight network of twenty-two cities in eighteen countries. Today that has increased to ninety destinations in around forty countries. From the UK, flights with Singapore depart/arrive from both London Heathrow and Manchester. ~PRICING AND TICKETING~ The flights I used this year were – SQ321 – Heathrow to Singapore – departs 22.15 daily – 747-400 SQ221 – Singapore to Sydney – departs 20.40 daily – 747-400 SQ230 – Adelaide to Singapore – departs 14.30 daily – 777-200 SQ322 – Singapore to Heathrow – departs 23.20 daily – 747-400 I booked my tickets around five months in advance through Lunn Poly. I paid £840 inclusive of taxes and my tickets (worth £1,171) were issued within a week. The alternative to this was booking online directly with the airline. Booking direct allows you to utilise the online 48-hour virtual check-in desk and chose your seat. However I would strongly advice, unless you have more money than braincells you DONT. The price I was quoted at their website for the exact same trip and dates? Please dont faint when I reveal the figure in question was in excess of £4,500… I worked out that the difference in price between the tickets in my hand and the online quote was in the region of £3,900. I cannot for the life of me work out how such a huge d
                                  iscrepancy can be justified; the extra benefit of booking direct certainly doesnt even come close to justifying the price hike. ~CHECK-IN~ Singapore Airlines leave and arrive from terminal three at Heathrow and from terminal two at Singapore Changi. Forget the virtual check-in (which has a special desk at each airport), SIA actually allow us mere mortals a very generous six-hour time limit as opposed to the standard three hours. I arrived at Heathrow almost five hours before the flight was due to depart (I had no idea at this point about the extra time limit) and was amazed to be allowed to check-in! As I was so early there was no queue and the staff member who processed me was very friendly, smiling and efficient. I was given the usual aisle/window seating choice, in fact the whole process only took a few minutes including the standard safety questions. The same can be said at the end of my holiday when I checked in at Adelaide. Granted this time there was a queue as I stuck to the regular three-hour time limit, but the line moved quickly and everyone seemed to be processed with the minimum of fuss. Again I was allowed a choice of seating. The lady passenger at the desk next to me had a bag that was too heavy but her excess was quickly popped into another bag that THEY provided and her check-in proceeded without another hitch and still with friendly smiles. Now doesn’t that make all the difference? Baggage weight limits are pretty standard, 20kg (44lb) for checked-in luggage with one piece of hand luggage. I actually had two pieces of hand luggage but that posed no problems! ~PUNCTUALITY~ Both of my outbound flights were punctual almost to the minute both on departure and arrival but the return leg was a different story. At Adelaide, for reasons that were never clear to me, the ground staff were just in no hurry to embark the passengers and when the process did finally get underway it was done at a
                                  n almost unbelievably leisurely pace. We did however make up the time in the air so that we arrived in Singapore virtually on time. In Singapore we were all checked through to the small departure gate lounge when it was announced that the plane (coming from Sydney) had been late arriving so therefore our departure was going to be delayed by at least half an hour. Now I am fully aware that half an hour is neither here nor there normally but this announcement wasnt made until the scheduled departure time had already passed, it was around eleven-thirty at night and we were all trapped in a small glass box with no access to any facilities. Couple all this with the fact that I wasnt feeling at all well and I just wanted to go to sleep. They were clearly aware of this fact when they began check-in so why were we not all warned somewhat earlier than we were? Black mark there for SIA I think… ~ONBOARD FACILITIES~ All of Singapore Airlines planes are, from what I could gather, fairly new. They are reputed to have the most modern fleet of aeroplanes in use and I concur from what I saw. All of the planes were scrupulously clean and well fitted out, the seats well upholstered (in either blue or purple) and the crew operated things like the cabin lights via touch screen units. That said, the SEAT PITCH in Economy was pathetic. It was supposedly 32 inches but I beg to differ. Seating was very cramped on the 747s both in width and pitch and Im only just over five-feet tall and nine stone dripping wet. Things were okayish when the seat in front was upright, but should the person in the seat in front recline, you were looking up their nostrils and pinned firmly where you sat! Should you wish to get up and move around the cabin and werent lucky enough to have an aisle seat it was time to practice mountaineering if your neighbour had fallen asleep. Things were a little better on the 777 but not by much. At least it felt more spacious
                                  due to the planes design and the fact that the overhead lockers are far more streamlined in the cabin! On the back of each seat is a small personal screen, which is where you can immerse yourself in the entertainment system. Headsets are provided free and incidentally it was SIA who began the practice of dishing these out without charge. They are the "hook over the ear" variety and very comfortable. They also seem to be well insulated, as I couldnt hear what anyone else was listening to. The system is controlled by a handset that is located (for storage) in one side of the seat, in the armrest. This handset serves many purposes. On one side it is the control for the screen, allowing you to switch between channels and on the other it is a satellite phone should you have a credit card and the urge to call your Mother at 40,000 feet! KRISWORLD is a blanket name given by Singapore Airlines to cover their Movie/Audio/Games system. Theres a choice of around ten main movie channels, around ten audio channels, plus assorted comedies, documentaries as well as a weather channel, a news channel that shows the worlds headlines updated every hour via satellite and the obligatory navigator that shows where you are in the world. When youve watched all you can and had your fill of the audio channels you can play games: Nintendo, PC and multi-player choices are all available. I found the games to be pretty good with a wide selection available, which means there should be something there to suit everyones tastes. I did however find that everytime I "paused" the game I was playing it wouldnt restart, in fact it froze my own personal system and the crew had to reboot! At first I thought it was a one-off but it happened each and every time. A pain in the backside quite frankly… On the way to Singapore from Heathrow I watched Red Dragon, which I had missed at the cinema. On the return leg they had Harry Potter’s latest effort
                                  as well as a James Bond movie but I was interested in neither! I did however enjoy the Robbie Williams concert they were showing… Some of SIAs planes are now equipped to play ‘movies on demand’, meaning you pick your movie and start it when you want to instead of having to wait for the next scheduled showing. I was lucky enough to have this facility on the outward legs but not on the return. It really does make an incredible difference being able to pick what you want to watch and when; hopefully all of their aeroplanes will have this soon. Around an hour before arrival at your destination a short film is played that covers all the sights and attractions that are available wherever you are going. This is played both on the front screen in each seating section and on the Krisworld personal system. The CABIN STAFF were all very helpful and friendly; everything was done with a smile and they really couldnt do enough for you, nothing was too much trouble. One push of the in-seat call button and someone was by your side virtually immediately. The women all looked very elegant in their Batik print uniforms even if they were a little bit stick thin and sickening! The mens blue uniforms were also very smart and they all spoke perfect English. The PILOTS were a bit of a mixed bag, they were mainly quiet but two of them stand out in my mind. The guy who took us from Heathrow to Singapore I could award a medal to, never before have experienced such a perfect take-off and landing; he certainly would have put any nervous flier at ease. The second one Im singling out is called Roger. His name stands out but not quite for the right reasons! I had the "pleasure" of being his passenger not once but twice and he seemed to love two things in life – turbulence and talking! He also seemed to want to prove the aircraft had three wheels as coming into Heathrow he managed to land the plane onto each…separately. Bounce, bounce, bou
                                  nce; maybe he should be renamed Captain Kangaroo! Singapore Airline boast that they have "World Gourmet Cuisine" and that would be a pretty accurate summation in my opinion. Authentic Asian meals are available for selection on all flights out of Singapore, flights from and into Heathrow have meals created by Gordon Ramsey and they all seem to translate well despite the average ability of airline caterers! The onboard MEALS were, in a word, delicious. As with most airlines there was a choice between two hot courses for both breakfast and main meals, but dinners had FOUR courses; starter, main hot selection, desert, plus cheese and biscuits. All meals are served with fruit juice and bottled style water along with a choice of alcoholic beverage and tea/coffee. The main dinner selections all seemed to be between chicken or fish but vegetarian options can be pre-booked. Breakfast choices seemed to be between, say noodles or omelettes but each and every meal I tried was fantastic and very filling. Upon arrival in both Sydney and back in the UK I didnt eat for almost twenty-four hours; I didnt need to! General Economy class AMENITIES were pretty good. Every passenger gets a pair of knitted socks and a toothbrush set upon embarkation but unlike other airlines I have flown with, no eyemask. To be honest though, when the cabin lights are turned out its pretty dark so it really wasnt a problem. The pillows provided were the usual titchy sizes but the blanket was larger than others I have tried desperately to cover myself with! Each seat has its own footrest and I did actually manage to get quite a few hours sleep on each flight. Toilet facilities were spotlessly clean and the stewardesses regularly checked them and sorted out any minor mishaps. The toilet cubicles were well stocked with various toiletries including hand lotion, after shave lotion and eau de cologne. Disposable razors and combs are also available from the crew, th
                                  ese articles are obviously now banned from hand luggage. KRISSHOP is Singapore Airlines in-flight duty free service and gift shop. I didnt personally purchase anything from the pretty extensive range of products available as I have discovered through experience that buying in Singapore is far cheaper, but the prices did seem pretty competitive for a mid-air service. The jewellery looked particularly good. ~IN SUMMATION~ Overall Singapore Airlines seemed to me to be outstanding in most areas but sadly lacking in the economy class comfort factor. The food is excellent, the crew outstanding in their attention to detail and friendly warm smiles, Krisworld when it is working is good and certainly has enough choice for all but the pickiest of passengers. Their prices from what I could tell are competitive as long as you book through a travel agent; I think the price I paid was pretty reasonable to say I was travelling in the middle of the Australian summer. Why oh why then have they fallen into the "cram them in" syndrome so synonymous with carriers like BA? The seats were neither generous in width or legroom and after parting with an awful lot of money for my flights I didnt want to have to hone my mountaineering skills as well just to be able to get to the toilet! On reflection I have given them four stars. I was tempted to give just three but I felt that would have been an unfair reflection of what is generally an excellent service. I couldnt however go the whole hog and award five; they really do need to have a re-think about cabin space in Economy class. Come on SIA – you pioneered free drinks to all passengers and a no-charge policy for your headsets; how about trying to treat us poor people a little better in the comfort stakes too?

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