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The greatest, most available, and cheapest (its free) soil conditioner is readily available all around you. Rubbish I hear you say and you are almost correct as I am referring to compost. Everyone with a garden should have a compost bin, or preferably two, but as this is not an review on the art of composting, I shall only mention that a piece of wood, a pile of hedge clippings or lawn mowings packed together will not decompose quickly as there will not be sufficient oxygen in the centre of the heap to allow aerobic and rapid decomposition. Shredding or crushing the materials however produces many beneficial results, particularly when composting fibrous materials such as branches, twigs or clippings. The shredding exposes a far greater surface area and makes it more susceptible to bacterial invasion as the chippings have very small fractures, which allows access by micro-organisms and oxygen, and which will in turn accelerate the composting process. Giving the compost a turn from time to time completes the process and you will soon become the proud owner of one of nature?s greatest gifts. The easiest way to shred or break up your garden material is by using a shredder. Once the domain of the professional gardener, manufacturers have designed much smaller machines for the average garden. The design of these has improved over the years, and there is now a selection of fine models on the market. I am now onto my second shredder, the first having gone to that great compost heap in the sky after 10 years of faithful service. It was an AL-KO 1100S shredder and really deserved a review all to itself but as more modern machines have superseded it, and it is no longer made, there is really no point. I must have pushed through the letterbox sized slot the equivalent of the Amazon rain forest before a particularly knotty piece of hawthorn finally brought it to its knees, and I was truthfully sorry to have to replace it.
Looking around at the available machines on the market, I was struck by a significant new feature. THEY ARE SILENT. My old machine accepted sticks and branches up to 25mm diameter and then proceeded to shred and crunch them into the fine mulch required for composting. This naturally was an extremely noisy process, covering up the curses and swearing that is all part of the process of shredding rose or any other spiky cuttings. I was once told that it sounded like a bull with its wotsits caught in a baling machine. (My spellchecker insists this should read wetsuits) After much too-ing and fro-ing I eventually settled on the ATCO 1800 watt Quiet Shredder and for the past year have had no problems whatsoever. In fact I consider it to be a significant improvement to my old machine. For a start we have the fact that, as its name suggests, it is comparatively silent. It would be impossible to make a shredder totally silent, due to the nature of the task of shredding itself. However the system employed by the ATCO is that of a fixed coil shredding system. In practice this is a spiral blade system, which is positioned at an angle and slowly draws in the material, then shredding into small chippings. The ATCO also can handle larger material. The literature provided with the machine states that it could take branches up to 35mm in diameter. I have not as yet tried it on such large branches, but know that it takes up to 30mm with no loss of performance whatsoever. As with all shredding and chopping machinery, safety is paramount and it is strongly recommended that you protect yourself with goggles and heavy-duty gloves at all times. In addition the ATCO shredder has several built in safety features such as an overload protection system and a facility to reverse the blades should a blockage occur. A full list of the features of the Atco Quiet Shredder 1800 are as follows: 1800 Watt motor Noise le
vel (LpA) 84 decibels Fixed coil cutting system Shredding speed 260rpm Material throughput 115kg/hr Non-recoil automatic feed Overload protection system Blockage release system Reverse running capability 5 metre cable with plug Working height adjustable 93cm or 98 cm Weight 24kg As I needed a new machine in somewhat of a hurry, I paid over £300 for my ATCO shredder, but having looked very carefully around the web, have come up with a tremendous price of £259. This can be found at www.lawnmowersdirect.co.uk and after looking at other offers in their pages, think an op on this site is called for. I am not saying that this is the best machine on the market, as obviously I have not tried them all, but as far as I am concerned, for the average sized garden, the ATCO 1800 Shredder is excellent value for money.
In AD 122, the Imperial Roman army were kicking arses in Northern Africa, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Greece, not to mention humbling the mighty German army on the Rhine and the formidable Boadicea in England. They were unstoppable with their well-drilled army and modern methods of warfare. Unstoppable that is until they reached the river Tyne, a little known river in northern England. Thinking they had little to do to subdue these black and white painted heathens, they sent out legion after legion to capture local chiefs and bring them under the heel of Rome. Imagine their surprise when legion after legion either disappeared entirely or returned in such disarray that it was clear that all was not going to plan. These 'heathens' were in fact Geordies, and no one had told them that Romans were to be obeyed without question. I suppose they just could not take anyone seriously that wore that ridiculous short frock in the bitterly cold North East of England. The head honcho at this time was a certain Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus. Known to the Geordies as Gussie but to everyone else as the Emperor Hadrian. On hearing of this impudent race, Hadrian immediately set sail and arrived on the banks of the Tyne to see for himself the problem in hand. His reception by the Geordies or toon army as they were now called, must have miffed him to say the least as he coined the immortal words 'Sod this for a game of soldiers' and immediately returned to Rome, leaving instructions that a wall be built to 'keep the buggers out'. OK so I have possibly taken liberties with history, but who is to say that my version is not as plausible as any other that you may come across. The main thing is that Hadrian did in fact order a wall to be built across the entire country from coast to coast and it says much for the Roman craftsmen of the days that the 80 miles long wall was completed in 6 years. It ran from Wallsend-on-Tyne in the east to Bowne
ss-on-Solway in the west. Much of the wall has long since disappeared, but parts of the central portion which runs alongside the B6318 is in relatively good condition, and it is here that the forts and museums are situated. The height of the wall was some 15 ft and topped with a parapet. It was an extremely sophisticated piece of engineering. For every mile there was a milecastle guarded by at eight men. Between these milecastles were two turrets for sentries who kept watch over the surrounding countryside. Thus the Romans could keep a close watch on the movement of any goods or people crossing their frontier. To the north of the Wall a deep ditch was excavated called the Vallum, and to the south another ditch flanked by mounds of earth. The Vallum was the Roman equivalent of barbed wire, slowing down an attacking force before it reached the wall itself. As building progressed, Roman control was strengthened by the construction of huge forts along the Wall. It is interesting to note at this point that there were no recorded attempts at breaching the wall, indeed the Northumbrians and the Scots were content to wait until the Romans had tired of playing Bob the Builder and once the legions had bogged off back to Italy, proceeded to dismantle much of the wall and turn the ready made blocks of stone into cowsheds and houses. Now we bring the story up to date. Not the entire wall was destroyed; in fact most of the route is still visible to this day with parts of the wall in remarkably good condition. The Hadrian's Wall and forts we see today are the last remains of this incredible Roman structure. An estimated 1.25 million people visit Hadrian's Wall each year and visit the ten forts and museums, which are open to the public. As only 5% of the Roman remains been examined so far, it is fair to say that new discoveries will be made for many years to come. The forts and museums are: VINDOLANDA HOUSESTEADS CHESTERS <
br>BIRDOSWALD CORBRIDGE ARBEIA SENHOUSE TULLIE HOUSE ROMAN ARMY MUSEUM MUSEUM of ANTIQUITIES It is absolutely impossible to tell you everything that can be seen on a visit to the wall, but I will pick out two of my favourite sites to give you a taste of what you can expect. HOUSESTEADS FORT The Roman name for Housesteads Fort was Vercovicium, this translates as the "place of the effective fighters". I think they were referring to us don’t you? The fort had massive barracks that accommodated a regiment of some 800 men and the excavations, which can be inspected by the public, include Barracks, Granaries, Hospital, The Commandant's House and the headquarters of the garrison. Excavations are ongoing but everything is explained down to the smallest detail. Take your time browsing around the ruins. With a little imagination it is possible to reconstruct in your mind the hustle and bustle of the Roman way of life. Sit on the carved stone toilets (they were communal toilets in those days) as thousands of soldiers before you and give thanks to the great God Andrex. Sanitation was uppermost in those days and central heating and bathhouses were taken for granted. VINDOLANDA Vindolanda means white lawns or white fields and lies just a few miles south of Hadrian's Wall. It must have been the jewel in the Roman crown in the area. A huge timber courtyard that has been excavated outside the fort is thought to have been Hadrian’s residence during his stay in Britain. Much is known about Vindolanda as valuable wooden tablets were found during the excavations. These tablets provide a rare source of a material, which seldom survived, giving details about private life in the fort. Here you can see a reconstruction of part of the wall including a gatehouse. This gives you some idea of the immense undertaking that the Romans completed. Charges for
admission to the forts and museums vary considerably and details of these and further information of all these sites can be found at www.hadrians-wall.org To find the wall, leave the M6 at Carlisle and travel east along the A69 to Greenhead. Here take the B6318 and you will find yourself in Hadrian’s Wall countryside. In any case the wall is signposted for miles around and impossible to miss.
Do you remember the advert for Hovis bread? The one where the young lad is pushing his bike to the top of an impossibly steep hill and delivering a loaf of freshly baked bread? Then freewheeling all the way down to the bakers again for breakfast with hot buttered bread. It used to bring back memories for me as I used to deliver freshly baked bread and groceries for the local Coop in a small village called Wooler in Northumberland, many years ago. The hills were every bit as steep as the one in the advert, and seemed to get steeper as the day wore on. The greatest piece of nostalgia that the advert brought to me was the thought of freshly baked bread. I can smell it now as I write, that hot yeasty fresh smell that permeates every corner of the house until you have no option but to go and cut a slice. How is it possible, to bring a remembered vision to life? One way is to bake a loaf in the time honoured method. To some this may be the obvious way but I would not know where to start and would probably end up with house bricks. There is another less painful and more certain method. Guess what Santa brought me? A breadmaker WOW good old Santa never let me down yet. He knew that I did not really want that new fishing reel. This particular machine is the cheapest and simplest to use on the market. It is the Cookworks B0906 breadmaker and is available in the likes of Netto for the princely sum of £30 or so. This compares with the likes of Morphy Richards and other well-known brands at £40 and more. It was with mixed feelings that I attempted my first loaf and I still can?t believe how simple this machine is to use. Tip in the required amount of water, then the bag of ready mixed flour, yeast, etc and switch on. 3½ hours later and voila, a freshly baked loaf ready for the table. The smell will have been filling the kitchen for an hour or so, making me daydream once again of loaves long since eaten. Now I
know what you are thinking. Another gadget to be used a time or two then thrown in the cupboard under the sink with the waffle maker and sandwich maker and other ?must have? gizmo?s, but believe me, when you see the results you can achieve for very little effort, you will wonder how you did without it. It really is child?s play to make perfect bread every time, and at £30 it wont break the bank to see if I am right or not. The Cookworks has various settings for basic and wholemeal bread, and also it comes supplied with a recipe book for all sorts of bready things from loaves to muffins. I particularly like the sundried tomato loaf, especially if the breadmaker has been set to cook in time for breakfast. This entails pressing three buttons instead of two. Cleaning could not be easier as the machine only has one non-stick pan and paddle, which wipe clean with a cloth. There is no danger of being burnt as the excellent insulation means that the exterior of the breadmaker hardly gets warm. There is a little window, which allows you to watch the progress of your bread making skills, and is a lot more entertaining than watching the telly these days. This breadmaker is a well-designed product, which gives excellent results. I have no hesitation in recommending it to you.
Lindisfarne or Holy island - The cradle of Christianity in this country - the jewel in the crown of Northumbria, and in its glorious history, a haven to Saints and Bishops. To do true justice to the Lindisfarne experience I am going to let you into a secret. Come and visit out of season. It is no use whatsoever visiting the island at the height of the summer. Although you will see the priory and the castle in the warmth of a summers day, you will not get the feel of the island. Nothing is to compare with the experience of standing on the foreshore on a winters evening, looking back towards the mainland, watching the sea slowly creep across the causeway and listening to the cry of the oystercatchers. If the mists are just right, you can imagine the monks as they returned from their journeys on the mainland. If at any time you are planning a visit to Scotland, think of stopping over at Lindisfarne. It is only 3 miles from the A1 and is ideally situated for a break on the journey south or north. Why not visit and stay at one of the hotels or boarding houses on the island. You can stay at the excellent Lindisfarne Hotel, or how about the Retreat or Wild Duck cottage details and prices can be found at: www.lindisfarne.org.uk/accommodation.htm It is important that you give consideration to the state of the tides on your arrival and departure. Never ever try and beat the tide. Many have and to their cost have found it not worth the risk. What is it then that makes this little island so special? Many small islands around our coastline have been called holy island for various reasons. The majority have had a hermit or holy man who isolated himself from the trials and tribulations of the outside world. Lindisfarne is the greatest and the only true holy island that we have in this country. Its dimensions are, three miles in length and one and a half miles wide. It is only an island at certain times of the tid
e. The fact that it is accessible by car at all other times draws thousands of people to it every year. Although a holy island in the Christian sense, it attracts visitors from all faiths, and beliefs. It was described at the court of Charlemagne as a "place more venerable than all in Britain." In 570, it was known as Inis Metcaut, which translates to "island of strong winds". The history of the island began in when King Oswald of Northumbria asked monks from Iona to found a monastery on the Northumbrian coast. St. Aidan, a monk-bishop agreed and founded his see in 635. As time passed, Lindisfarne became the centre of all great Christian activity and was also the seat of sixteen successive bishops. The venerable Bede thought highly of Aidan, and wrote the following: "He never sought or cared for worldly possessions, and loved to give away whatever he received from kings or wealthy folk. Whether in town or country, he always travelled on foot, unless compelled by necessity to ride, and whenever he met anyone, high or low, he stepped and spoke to them. If they were heathen, he urged them to be baptized; and if they were Christians, he strengthened their faith and inspired them by word and deed to live a good life and be generous to others." In 685, Lindisfarne was ruled for 2 years by none other than St. Cuthbert. His book called the "Lindisfarne Gospels" is preserved in the British Museum Library despite pleas to return it to its rightful home on Lindisfarne, or to Durham cathedral. The ruins of the priory are in excellent condition despite raids from Vikings and Danes. It is easy to imagine the monks going about their daily lives as you stand in what remains of the cloisters. At the southern end of the island is Lindisfarne castle, which is perched atop a rocky windswept crag, facing out into the North Sea and presents an exciting aspect. It was ori
ginally a Tudor fort, and converted into a private dwelling in 1903 by non other than Edwin Lutyens. The decoration and design of the small rooms have been faithfully preserved. A walled garden at the rear was designed by the world renowned Gertrude Jekyll. The castle is open daily from 31 March to 31 Oct. Admission is £4.20; family (2 adults, 2 children under 17) £10.50. Small shops on the island sell various tourist items as you would expect and there is also the Lindisfarne mead company, which makes and sells the famous Lindisfarne mead and various other products. As I said earlier, my advice is to visit out of season and to enjoy our Northumbrian hospitality. You will leave being satisfied both physically (Northumbrian beef has to be tasted to be appreciated) and spiritually. For a deeper insight into the people who lived here try walking barefoot across the old causeway at low tide, but do so with reverence, remember that you walk in the footsteps of saints.
For a man to be remembered for his writings after more than 1000 years is a noteworthy occurrence. There must be something truly remarkable about this person and surely deserves the time and effort spent in a closer look at his work. The person I am referring to is of course Bede, or the Venerable Bede to give him his correct title. The definitions of venerable in the dictionary are, respected, esteemed, and honoured. After his death, his friends were lavish in their praise of this amazing man. It comes across quite clearly that he was a nice person, a gentleman, and a truly venerable man. He was born about 672 or 673 A.D. in Northumbria. At seven years of age, his family delivered him to the monastery at Wearmouth, which was located at the mouth of the river Wear. There he was introduced to, and taught, a version of the Benedictine Rule. In 681 a monastery was established nearby at Jarrow at the mouth of the river Tyne. Bede moved there and along with twenty or so monks, continued service and education. This was under the guidance of Abbot Ceolfrith, who became a great friend and an inspiration to the young Bede. When he was nineteen years old, he was ordained as a deacon. This was an office normally reserved for much older monks. At thirty, he became a full priest. It is assumed from his writings that he never left the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow, in his entire life, apart from a trip to Lindisfarne, and a trip to York. What then was it that made this man so remarkable? He produced two major works, and has become known as the father of English history. His most important work was The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. His other major work being The History of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow. From the titles you would hardy think they were ever destined to be best sellers, but remember that in those days, the only history being recorded was by Bede and other monks. Were it not for them we wou
ld know very little about our past. He was also a poet and wrote poems in Old English and Latin. In total he wrote some sixty books, (was he the first churner?) and when I say wrote, that is exactly what I mean as every word was scribed by Bede and his brother monks. These were the days when our friends the Romans had left and kingdoms were rising and falling, none more so than the mighty kingdom of Northumbria. Bede was the Kate Adie of his day (incidentally she comes from Wearmouth as well). He describes the mighty battles as well as the everyday happenings. He also tells us of the politics between Northumbria, and the Christianity of the Roman world. Bede not only gave us a true and honest history of the English people, but also was the nearest thing we had to a scientist in those days. It is accepted that his calculations were the first to show the connection between the moon and the tides. He meticulously charted the movement of tides and the various phases of the moon to come up with the first workable tide tables. Even in those far off days, Bede was recognized internationally. Pope Leo XIII named him a doctor of the Church in recognition of his work. During Easter, 735, Bede died. The Roman Church now celebrates his feast day, on 25 May. Bedes World, at Jarrow is a new venture, which shows us the archaeology of the monastery site and also breathes life into the ancient world of the Benedictine monks. On 6 August 2000 a new museum was opened with a new permanent exhibition, The Age of Bede. Bedes World is split into three parts: #The Museum #The Farm #St Pauls Church and Monastery The museum successfully attempts to create the peace and tranquillity of a Benedictine Monastery. The exhibits are set out in such a way that it is a sheer pleasure to wander from one to the next, learning the story of Bede and his work. A huge tableau showing monks building the
monastery takes pride of place, and the Gregorian chanting in the background sets it off perfectly. Finds from excavations are on display and include some of the first coloured window glass made in England. Unbelievably, the colours appear as clear and bright today as they were when they were made over 1300 years ago. You can sit in alcoves and listen to the voice of Bede reading from his books, or try on the monks cloak and cowl. (I nearly frightened the life out of myself when I tried them on. They actually suited me!) The museum also has a shop where you can buy a range of books and tapes, souvenirs, cards and other gifts, and there is a cafeteria adjacent to the building. The farm is called Gyrwe (pronounced 'Jeerwe') after the Old English name for Jarrow, and is a living breathing experience. The farm explores the life and work of the people who lived outside the monastery. It is, as you would expect all daub and wattle, with several very convincing buildings and implements. New buildings are being planned all the time based on the evidence of archaeological work in Northumbria and using accurate materials. The animals have not had it easy during the foot and mouth crisis, but have survived more or less intact. Here you can see the breeds of pigs, sheep, cattle, goats and poultry, which were bred 1000 years ago. You can see the ancient strains of wheat and vegetables, which our ancestors ate, being grown here. The farm provides an excellent setting for the regular series of Living History demonstrations that are planned throughout the year. St. Paul's church is a living thriving church and is the parish church of Jarrow. The section, which relates to Bede, is the chancel. It is a direct survival from the 7th century when it was a chapel within the monastery itself. The original stone slab which records in a Latin inscription the dedication of the church on 23 April AD 685 is still in situ, a fa
ct which in itself is quite remarkable. Behind the church you will see the remains of the Benedictine monastery, which was re-built on the site of Bede's monastery. Remains of buildings from Bede's day were found during excavations and the position of these walls is marked on the ground. As usual I would advise anyone who intends visiting this or any other museum, to check for offers with the local tourist information centre. The full cost for a visit to Bedes World is £4.50 for adults and £2.50 for children. Well worth it. It is simplicity itself to find as it is clearly marked, and not 5 minutes from the south end of the Tyne Tunnel. Dont know where the Tyne is? Believe me you will before I am finished with one or two more ops on this fascinating county of Northumbria.
Ashington, The Largest Pit Village in the World. For many years this was the proud boast of this North East community. This is the place where you could shout down a mine, and a world-class footballer would emerge. Who has not heard of Jack and Bobbie Charlton? Ask any Newcastle United supporter who was the best player they ever had, and the vast majority of the older supporters will answer with one voice. Jackie Milburn from Ashington. He led the toon on their unstoppable crusade in the early 1950s and his statue now takes pride of place outside the Newcastle United ground at St. James Park and in the centre of Ashington shopping centre. Within a radius of 5 miles from the centre of Ashington, there used to be 30 collieries or pits. Ashington was the largest, employing nearly 4,000 men in the years following the Second World War. As the seams became unworkable, this number was reduced, and with the advance of modern opencast procedures, we are today left with only one pit at Ellington. This is hanging on by its fingertips and will probably follow the rest into glorious oblivion in the near future. What then of the proud tradition of the mining community? Where will it be possible to see the conditions under which the men, boys and even women toiled in the good old bad old days. As a rule, the remains of the collieries and pits are nowhere to be found as the land was immediately reclaimed for other purposes, indeed in the latter years it was almost with indecent haste that the shafts were filled and the headgear removed for scrap. It was as if the authorities were ashamed of what they had asked men to do and wanted all evidence removed from the face of the earth. There was however one exception. In 1984 a small colliery near Ashington called Woodhorn, brought its last load of miners to the surface and the place was prepared for demolition. The silent headgear was a reminder of past glories, or possibly a gravestone to the tho
usands of men women and children that lost their lives needlessly in the mines of yesteryear. The winding engines and shafts remained in use until 1985, as they were required to pump water from Ashington Colliery, until it too closed on 1st October 1986. A few of Woodhorn Colliery's buildings were demolished i.e. the pithead baths and lamp cabin, but it was decided to preserve the remaining buildings as a mining museum. Woodhorn Colliery Museum opened in 1989 and is currently attracting 40,000-50,000 visitors per year. This is not a Museum with the pulling power of say Beamish, but is nonetheless an excellent setting for this growing enterprise. As it continues to expand, it is bringing pleasure and memories to many people. When you first enter the museum, every effort is made to give the impression of entering the workings of the mine, as it was prior to closure. There are plenty of tools and machinery along with the every day sounds of a working colliery. Listen carefully and you will hear the deputy speaking on the internal phone to the surface. The voice is that of my wife?s uncle Jack, so this is my claim to fame. On display at the museum is a collection of paintings by the Pitmen Painters. They were a group of Northumberland miners, who in the 1930.s founded a local art group. In those days there was no spare money for oil paints and canvas and if the choice was between bread on the table or some watercolours, then food took priority. Not to be beaten, they used materials that were at hand such as plywood instead of canvas, and household paint, which was plentiful and cheap when bought and shared round the group. Their work is displayed at the Museum, and it is really quite excellent. It is not described as ?oil on canvas but Walpamur on hardboard. The majority of these unique paintings depicts everyday life in the community and as such is invaluable as a historical record. Clippie and
proggie mats were only to be found in the North East of England as far as I am aware, and were a method of recycling woollens by cutting them into strips and making mats from them. The art has all but disappeared but at the museum is a group who meet and make these mats every Thursday and Sunday. You are more than welcome to watch them at work and will even be invited to try your hand at this fast disappearing craft. Apart from the exhibits relating to mining in the area, Woodhorn Museum regularly hosts exhibitions from other museums. Recently, to co-incide with the Laing gallery, the museum used computers to give an interactive view of the Lindisfarne Gospels, which were on display at Newcastle. You can take a trip on Black Diamond, a genuine colliery loco, which runs on narrow gauge on a circular track. The round trip takes about 20 minutes at a leisurely 5 mph through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park giving excellent views of the wildlife on the lake. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Simonside and Cheviot Hills. There is an excellent 70-seater cafeteria, (try the all day breakfast) and a comprehensive gift shop. As the museum is partly funded by the local council, the Coal Board and the E.C. possibly the best news is that a visit to the Museum is absolutely free, although donations are gratefully accepted. It is open all year round. Times of opening are: Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays: 10.00 am - 5.00 pm (close 4.00 pm September - April) Woodhorn Colliery museum is well signposted from Ashington, and if you cant find Ashington then ask the first person you meet North of the Tyne. Tel: (01670) 856 968
Jeremiah Colman was once asked to sum up the secret of his success and how he made a fortune out of such a humble thing as mustard. His reply was that he made his money from the mustard that people threw away on the sides of their plate. There just has to be a moral there somewhere. In 1804 he was a flour miller and decided to try his hand at the milling and packaging of mustard. Such was his success and such was the popularity of his product, that he was forced to expand, and became the largest maker of mustard in the country. Today it is prepared in very much the same way that Jeremiah Colman invented. They use two types of mustard seed, one white and the other brown. The seed is ground and sifted to remove the husks and thus form the mustard flour. After grinding and sifting, the two mustards are mixed together and packaged in the bright yellow tins that are familiar to everyone. If the strength of a country were judged on its mustard, we in the UK would be International Supermen (and women). Take for example the Dijon mustards of France. They are very smooth, very sophisticated, but very WEAK. And what of the dark German mustard? Or the light coloured American mustard? Neither are what I would call mustard, in the real sense of the word. They are more of a relish, manufactured for those with a weak palate. Mustard should be Hot, it should clear your sinuses the moment you open the can, and should make your toes curl up if you slap too much on your ham sandwich. Colmans mustard is as English as the roast beef dinners that it enhances. I personally prefer to mix it fresh immediately before using it. Use cold water, mix slowly humming "Rule Britannia", and stand for ten minutes as this gives it more of a "kick" It is perfectly acceptable to use the ready mixed mustard that is more and more in use today, provided that it is Colmans of course. I have actually seen jars with what is described on the label
as ?English? mustard, produced in Italy! As an aside, I can only comment that if in fact they had used English mustard themselves, they would probably not have lost the Roman Empire. Colmans mustard has of course many other uses other than spicing up your Sunday roast. The following are a sample, which I have trawled from the web. I cannot personally vouch for most of them, but intend to experiment as and when the occasion arises: #.For smelly dishes add a heaped tablespoon of Colman's with the soap to remove odours like fish and onions. #.Make a paste with Colman's and spread it on the back of a loose tile to secure it to the wall. Acts like plaster! #.Use as fertilizer for better coloured daffodils. #.Sprinkle dry mustard inside shoes to prevent cold feet and frostbite. #.Mustard and honey at bedtime for coughs, a pinch of mustard in a glass of water for hiccups. #.Colman's poultry mustard fed to chickens stimulates egg production. #.To mend leaky car radiators temporarily, pour in contents of 2 oz. tin of mustard while car is running. #.Sprinkle over plants to rid them of insect pests. #.Dry Colman's rubbed into dog's coat helps stop distemper. Cover dog with blanket. #.Smear headlights with a dry Colman's mixed with some water to drive in fog. Voila, fog lights! #.Stuffy nose? Make a paste, spread it generously over a cracker, and take a few bites. This clears it up in seconds! #.Do you have trouble with ants? Sprinkle Colman's mustard over their trail and they wont cross it. #.Hands smell like onions or garlic? Rub some Colman's on your hand and rinse with warm water to remove the smell. #.When using breadcrumbs on chicken or chops, add a tablespoon of Colman's to the breadcrumbs. #.Before cooking mussels, put them in a bucket of water with a few teaspoonfuls of dry Colman's to make them spit out the grit and sand. #.Make a paste and rub
it on the sole of the foot and around the ear lobes. This is very relaxing and reduces stress. #.Use a thin mixture of Colman's and water to catch worms for fishing. You have to find a wormhole, and pour the mixture in. The worms wiggle out and then you need to rinse them off before putting them in your bait box. Uses around your computer. #.Colman's Mustard makes a great background colour for WebPages. #.The nice mellow yellow colour relieves eyestrain. #.Make a great looking paperweight out of the tin! So that is Colman?s mustard for you, £1 - £1.30 for a jar or 75p or so for the powder in the famous tin. Far too strong for most countries....makes you proud to be British(sniff)
On Saturday 10th November, like many others, I attended the first showing of the eagerly awaited “Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone”. The fact that I was one of the massive audience of 22, yes TWENTY-TWO, calls for some explanation. While the rest of the country were fighting over the few seats available, you could have played a game of quidditch live in my theatre. The simple fact was that the management in its wisdom thought that it was unnecessary to advertise the film and therefore no one knew it was on at out local. Theatres in Newcastle meanwhile were being besieged. Joanne Rowling is one of that extremely rare breed of animals that many others aspire to. She tells a bloody good story. This fact is often forgotten when her work is held up as “children’s” stories. Well let me state at once in that case I must still be a child as I enjoy every word she has written. If she can get children back to reading books rather than watching TV, she ranks very high in my estimation. The first of her works on the phenomena known as “Harry Potter” is called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone. This book is the first of a proposed series of seven, all of which are anticipated to be films of gigantic moneymaking proportions. How then will the film live up to the expectations of thousands and thousands of young fans who know every word of the books? It is always a notorious task to convert a favourite book to film. I suppose that in all honesty I cannot think of a single example where I prefer a film to a book. The medium of film makes the transition impossible and it is exactly the case in this instance. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and some of the scenes are, to coin a phrase from Ron Weasley, bloody marvellous. There will be very few people who are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter story, but for those who have recently returned from Mars, it is the story
of a boy who discovers that he is in reality a wizard who lives in the world of Muggles (that’s you). It is necessary that his magic education require that he attend the world famous school of Hogwarts, from where his adventures begin. You will notice that I do not include myself amongst you common Muggles....the very idea. Knowing the story makes this film truly awe inspiring, as your mind is trying to recall what is going to happen next, and some of the scenes are exactly as you imagined them. The Grand Hall at Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat, the Hogwart Express, all marvellously captured and depicted on screen. My favourite scenes are the quidditch match and the chess game. The quidditch match, and other scenes, was shot at Alnwick castle, which is only a mile or so from where I live. If you watch as the quidditch players are flying round, you will see scenes of the Northumberland countryside. The film captures the excitement of the game perfectly; in my day it was an honour to be picked for the first team, but we did not have the advantage of the Nimbus 2000. Words cannot describe the marvellous wizards chess game. Imagine huge chess pieces which attack and fight at your command. The realism of the animation is truly breathtaking. The cast are all flawless in their interpretation of their various characters. I pick out those of which were my favourites, but no doubt you will have your own once you have seen the film. I am sure that I will run out of superlatives in a very short space of time: •Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. It was said that Rowling selected him because he was exactly as she had imagined Harry Potter to be. He is exactly as I had imagined him to be also, but probably because he is a ringer for the illustration on the book cover. Be that as it may, his performance was perfect and I am absolutely certain that he will develop the character as each film is produced. He will p
robably be typecast and forever more be Harry Potter but there are worse things in life. •Maggie Smith as Prof. Minerva McGonagall was for me the star of the film. Her portrayal of McGonagall is perfect as is to be expected of an actress of her calibre. •Robbie Coltrane as the enormous Hagrid, makes the part his own very early in the film. He is exactly as I had imagined him to be and the humour of the character shines through…oooohhh I don’t think I should have told you that. •Richard Harris as Prof. Dumbledor…perfect. The deep voice and quality acting bring the endearing Dumbledor to life. •Rupert Grint who plays Ron Weasley and Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger, have two pivotal roles in this and subsequent films. They are to grow up with the young Harry Potter and will become stars in their own right. I place my cap in the ring now and say that Rupert Grint is one of tomorrow’s top stars in the movie world. •Alan Rickman plays the difficult part of Snape perfectly. Is he evil? Or not? Those who have read the books know exactly, and the rest of you will have to shell out to find out. Other parts, which will come to the fore in subsequent films include: Zoe Wannamaker (Madame Hooch), Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), John Cleese (Nick the Nearly Headless Ghost) and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy). The part of Peeves the poltergeist was reputedly dropped from the film on the grounds of time, a pity, as I believe Rik Mayall took the part. Do I advise you to see the film? Unquestionably yes. I make the following proviso however, that you see the film before taking the very young. Some of the scenes are not, in my opinion, suitable. The film has been given a PG, and quite rightly so. The only things that I found disappointing in the entire film were the wands. A wand is a slender, highly complex and delicate instrument. In the film they looked
quite frankly like sticks of wood. Ah Well nothing is perfect.
This op could just possibly make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. I am going to tell you how to find treasure, not pirate’s booty but gold and silver nevertheless. Over the ages it has been commonplace to lose cash and small metal objects, just as we do today. What is a £1 coin to us today was a silver or gold coin to our ancestors. These coins were generally found in a very short space of time unless they were dropped in grass or in water. Have you ever dropped something in long grass and then tried to find it? It is just about impossible and if the item is small then the difficulty becomes even greater. Over the years these items are gradually pulled under the surface by the action of the grass growing and apparently are lost forever. You may be surprised to learn that in certain places the earth at only a depth of one to two inches deep contains vast quantities of coins, brooches and rings etc. The secret lies in knowing where these places are. Old fairgrounds are a good example; in fact anywhere that people gathered outdoors for any reason, will yield all sorts of metal artefacts. Sites that have been used recently contain large amounts of rubbish such as ring-pulls and silver paper, but there are ways to “ignore” these items. By now you will have realised that I am talking about metal detecting. I have owned a detector for many years and have spent many happy days totally immersed in the world of “treasure hunting”. Were I to value all my finds, the detector would have paid for itself many times over, but there is nothing to compare with the feeling you get, when the glint of gold is seen beneath your trowel. Good detecting is 90% research. Local libraries contain the information that could lead to your big find. Old newspapers, maps, and census returns all hold clues. You are looking for anything at all that would mean people congregated at a certain spot. For instance,
I am still looking for the site of an Elizabethan fair that I have read about. I know the area it was held on within a mile or two, but still have to make that magic find that will tie it all together. When selecting a detector, it is important to realise that it is possible to save digging every “ping” that you get. These machines are called “Discriminators” and are invaluable. These machines will discriminate all silver paper and aluminium pull rings out, leaving you with a better chance that you are registering a worthwhile find. Nowadays it is possible to get a decent machine for less than £100. As I said earlier, the vast majority of finds are literally just under the surface of the soil and require only a small trowel or knife to prise them loose. Digging huge holes with a spade are not necessary, and the practice is frowned on. Much publicity is given to the large finds that can be worth millions of pounds and are of great historical interest. These are hoards that have been deliberately buried and for the most part are beyond the reach of the amateur treasure seeker. The vast majority of treasure seekers are sensible law abiding citizens and would never bring the hobby into disrepute. The best selling metal detecting magazine in the UK is called “Treasure Hunting” and has laid down the following guidelines: “Code of Conduct. •1.Do not trespass. Ask permission before venturing onto any private land. •2. Respect the Country Code. Do not leave gates open when crossing fields, and do not damage crops or frighten animals. •3. Do not leave a mess. Practice pinpointing and extracting your finds with the minimum of disturbance to the ground and fill the hole back in (even when searching remote farm fields). Stamp the earth back down and leave the area as you found it. •4. Help to keep Britain tidy - and help yours
elf. Take away and dispose of any rubbish that you find (rusty iron, silver paper, old cans). This will save you from wasting time digging the junk up again next year, and will prevent any damage it might cause to expensive farm machinery. •5. If you discover any live ammunition or other potentially lethal object do not touch it. Mark the spot carefully and report the find to the local police and landowner. •6. Report all unusual historical finds to the landowner and abide by the requirements of the Treasure Act 1996. •7. Familiarise yourself with the law relating to archaeological sites. Remember that it is illegal for anyone to use a metal detector on a Scheduled Ancient Monument unless permission has first been obtained from the Secretary of State for the Environment. •8. Remember that when you are out with your metal detector you are an ambassador for our hobby. Do nothing that might give it a bad name.” This is all excellent advice and can be found along with much more at their website at http://www.treasurehunting.co.uk/ The site itself is not massive, but is designed to be fast, and to give you a taste of what the magazine has to offer. It is possible to order a sample copy of the magazine post free, and should you be interested, this is probably the best way to start. Also available from the site are various publications which can prove invaluable should you decide to try metal detecting for yourself. There is an excellent introduction to the hobby, details of events and rallies in the near future, a full list of clubs in the country, tests on various detectors and sample articles from the magazine. So what are you waiting for? Go and look at the site, get your detector and go searching. Who knows, by this time next year we could both be millionaires.
The next time you douse your fish and chips with vinegar, eat a pickled onion, or chomp your way through a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, you will remember this op, so pay attention at the back of the class as I may be asking questions later. Sarson’s started brewing malt vinegar two hundred or so years ago. Actually they are only newcomers in an ages old product, which goes back into the mists of time. Vinegar is probably the oldest man made product still in production today. It was discovered, quite by chance, more than 10,000 years ago. The French say it best – vinaigre – which means quite literally “sour wine”. It is easy to suppose that as a result of a happy accident all those years ago, a wonderful new product was launched into the world. The principle of vinegar making remains unchanged, and is the fermentation of natural sugars into alcohol and then a secondary fermentation to vinegar. Over the years other materials have been introduced in the making of vinegar, and include: molasses, fruits and berries, melons, coconut, maple syrup, honey, beer, potatoes, malt, and grains of various sorts. Not only is vinegar used to add flavour to fish and chips, it is also used in: salad dressings, ketchup, sauces, marinades, mustard, pickles, and many more. Next time you are shopping at the supermarket, take a look at the ingredient statement on your favourite products, 9 times out of 10, you will find vinegar on the list somewhere. The primary use of vinegar is to preserve foodstuffs and prior to refrigeration and apart from salting, was just about all that our predecessors had. It is hardly surprising therefore, that other uses for this marvellous liquid were explored. The ancient Babylonians for example began flavouring it with herbs and used it as a condiment. Roman legionnaires, on the other hand, used vinegar as a beverage, and it is rumoured that Cleopatra dem
onstrated its unique solvent properties, by dissolving pearls in it, thus winning a wager that she could “consume a fortune in a single meal”. It was Hippocrates who extolled its medicinal qualities and it was probably one of the earliest true remedies known to man. Even the Bible makes references to vinegar, telling how it was used for its soothing and healing properties. One of the lesser-known facts about vinegar is that when Hannibal crossed the Alps, he used vinegar to help pave the way. Any boulders that blocked his path were first heated, and then doused with vinegar. The boulders are reported to have cracked and crumbled, allowing Hannibal through amid cries of “smartarse.” Even as recently as World War I, vinegar was being used to treat wounds, and even today it is still recommended for the treatment of rashes, bites and other minor ailments. Studies have been carried out into the keeping qualities of vinegar. Amazingly the shelf life appears to be indefinite. This is because the acid nature of the product makes vinegar self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. So much for the keeping and medicinal qualities of vinegar, but there are literally thousands and thousands of other uses for this amazing product. I suggest that you type the word “vinegar” into a search engine such as Google along with “medicinal” or “household uses” and you will be truly amazed at the results. A handful, taken at random are these: •Take 1-tablespoon vinegar each hour or until diarrhoea subsides. •First I'd like to thank you for your vinegar cure for toenail fungus; I will soon be able to wear flip-flops! •Cure dandruff. Simply mix one tablespoons of vinegar into two pints of water, and rinse your hair with it. •An equal mixture of salt and white vinegar will clean coffee and tea stains from china cups. R
26;To loosen hard-to-clean stains in glass, aluminium or porcelain pots or pans, boil 1/4-cup of white vinegar with 2 cups of water. Wash in hot, soapy water. •Spots on your stainless steel kitchen equipment can be removed by rubbing the spots with a cloth dampened with white vinegar. •Soak normal food-stained pots and pans in full strength white vinegar for 30 minutes. Rinse in hot, soapy water. •Boil a teaspoon of white vinegar mixed in a cup of water to eliminate unpleasant cooking odours. •When handling onions A little white vinegar rubbed on your fingers before and after slicing onions will remove the odour of onions quickly. •To remove fruit stains from your hands, rub them with a little white vinegar and wipe with a cloth. •Absorb odour of fresh paint by putting a small dish of white vinegar in the room. •Dampen your cleaning rag in white vinegar and water and use it to wipe out your oven. •If you get lime deposits in your kettle, gently boil 1/2-cup of white vinegar to a pot of water. Then rinse well. •2 cups of white vinegar added to a tub of water will make a good rinse for both cotton and wool blankets - leaves them free of soap odour and their nap is soft and fluffy as new. •Lightly rub white vinegar on fabric that has been slightly scorched. Wipe with a clean cloth. •To get rid of stains left by deodorants and anti-perspirants on washables, lightly rub with white vinegar and then wash as usual. •When you are colour dyeing, add about a cup full of white vinegar to the last rinse water to help set the colour. There are literally thousands of fascinating tips using this amazing product, so remember this and all the history involved when you next shake that bottle over your chips.
Ok now be honest, what is it about camping that puts you off? Is it the cold and rain, the hassle of erecting a tent before you can settle down? The uncomfortable sleeping arrangements? The basic cooking arrangements? Or the inconveniences of hauling your equipment round like a tortoise? How would it be if I were to explain to you how you could overcome all of these problems, and have a super duper holiday in the sun at an affordable price? In the early 1970,s I had a young family, mortgage, bills to pay every month etc etc. and the cost of a package holiday abroad was prohibitive even at the prices in those days. Sick and tired of the rain and wind on our annual camping holiday to Scotland, I decided to try my luck with a new up and coming company. It was called “Canvas Holidays” and specialised in camping holidays in France and Germany. The difference being that apart from camping in the sun, the tents were already erected, the ferry was booked, and any overnight stops in hotels arranged for in advance. All arrangements down to maps and advice about driving on the wrong side of the road were catered for and nothing really was left to chance. We had a wonderful holiday, in St Tropez and followed it up with further holidays over the next few years to the Dordogne, the Black Forest and to the Ardennes region. In those days there were only tents on offer, but now they have increased their range to include mobile homes, which are to a luxury specification. What this all boils down to is that you can go to almost anywhere on the continent, and the only additional cost to you is the fuel involved in getting there. They even do fly drive if the distance seems to great, but I think that travelling through the French countryside is all part of the holiday and you get a chance to practice your French/German on the unsuspecting public. You can select how many nights you wish to stay at a s
elected site, then move on, no tent to dismantle and happy in the knowledge that there will be a new tent with all mod cons waiting for you at your next destination. The tents are state of the art affairs, (17'x17') and fully furnished. As they say “everything from coffee pot to electric fridge”. The beds are great and there is mains electricity to all tents, and each tent even has a hammock! Looking at their current prices, I see it is possible to have a 12-night holiday for £184. This is for 2 adults (up to 4 children go free in any case) and assumes that you book the holiday before 31st October this year. The normal price structure is geared to a seasonal basis as is normal, with the most expensive times being in the school holidays. Canvas Holidays now operate from 83 campsites in Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Luxembourg. Some of these sites are up to a standard not seen in this country. For instance, the site at Dol-de-Bretagne has 4 pools, a cricket pitch, an 18-hole golf course, tennis, horse riding, fishing/boating lakes 2 bars, restaurant, games room and disco. You choose when you depart and return, any day of the week that suits you. You can select either a ferry or the Tunnel. Take a single centre holiday, or make it a tour of the Europe. Why not use Canvas Holidays to visit Disneyland and visit Paris? yes there is a site close at hand. If this all sounds too good to be true, I suggest you visit their website at www.canvasholidays.com and check it out for yourself. It is possible to order a comprehensive brochure online and this gives a list of all the sites available and all the details that you need to make an informed decision for yourself.
How many of us now own CD Recorders? I suspect that with most new computers being fitted with them as standard, the number will be growing all the time. They are an important part of the computing world as files become larger and impossible to fit onto floppies. Digital pictures, MP3’s and entire programmes are demanding more and more space, hence the need for a medium that enables them to be stored safely and with ease of recovery. There are many excellent programmes that enable one to copy these files from hard drive to disk and this will be fine for the majority of users. There is however an alternative to simply dragging and dropping these files in the same manner that you do with a floppy. Purchase any CD that contains a programme and it is taken for granted that once inserted into your drive, would automatically start and “talk” you through the installation or take you to an interface that allows access to the disk. This has always been assumed to be a process that is in the hands of companies who design the CD’s and far beyond the capabilities of us mere mortals. This is no longer the case. Let me tell you about a programme called AutoPlay Studio. It has been developed by a company called Indigo Rose, the current edition being 3.0, and is only one of several excellent products. Their address is www.indigorose.com and well worth a visit, if only to see their products. Before I get shouted down for not telling you of all the “functions” let me say that this is a one-function programme. Its entire existence is dedicated to allowing you to auto start your copied CD’s with an interactive interface that you have designed. From the beginning you are helped through the process of designing and publishing with a user-friendly desktop and loads of help menus. It is possible to start with a project template and customize it from there. It is then a s
imple matter to assign actions to various events; you can easily execute installation programs, start presentations, jump to web sites, play video and music, and send email. It is possible (if unlikely) to build an interface with 1000 pages. It is very similar to designing a web site without the heartache of actually publishing it on the web. I find it most useful when compiling MP3 lists. With AutoStart I can make an interface that contains 12 Collections of music. Each collection has a picture which when clicked on initiates a media player (Winamp in my case) and starts a play list of that collection. The entire process gives your finished masterpieces a very professional appearance. I have also seen this used to make enormous collections of photographs, each collection linked to a button on the desktop and played with a built in slide show. The price of this is steep at the moment $295 to be exact, but I suggest you take a look at their site where you will find a perfectly good demo that you can download for free. Some of the functions are withheld, but it is possible to get excellent results and not spend a penny.
The North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish in County Durham has won many prestigious awards since it’s opening some 30 years ago. Unless you have been and seen for yourself, you will not realise just what an ambitious project this actually is. The objective that they have set themselves is to have a living and working environment based on life in Victorian England in the North East. I have been many times and find that the hours fly past, leaving you with more to see on a return visit. The museum takes up some 300 acres. This enormous area is far too large to walk around and therefore your 1900,s experience starts immediately when you find that to negotiate the various areas in the museum, it is necessary to use the trams provided, some of which are horse powered. They take you on a circular tour of the countryside where you can see examples of how the fields were worked during the Victorian age, while you travel in open topped comfort to the various places of interest, which are: the Town, Pockerley Manor, Colliery Village, Railway and Station, and Home Farm. You can if you wish picnic in the park and listen to music from the authentic Victorian bandstand and watch the “population” of Beamish pass by. Soldiers, sailors, and nannies with their wards can pass you at any time, all in authentic costume. Look out for the Victorian Fun fair complete with merry-go-round, coconut shy, toffee apples, Wurlitzer and other attractions of the times. Construction of houses and equipment is on an ongoing basis, so there is always something new to see each time. Attention to detail is paramount with them, as is evident when you visit any of the shops in the “Town” The Town (1913) consists of •Co-operative Shops •Sweet Factory & Confectionery •Motor & Cycle Works •Dentist's Home & Surgery •Stationer's Shop •Printing Works •The B
ank •The Sun Inn Pub •Music Teacher's House •Solicitor's Office •Livery Stables The Co-operative Shops are staffed shops depicting exactly as it was at the beginning of the Coop movement. From food to toiletries, fruit and veg. to milk, and haberdashery to the undertaker, the Coop did it all. Walking slowly round the grocery store will show you many household names that are still with us today, as well as those that are now just a memory. A visit to the Sweet Factory & Confectionery is a mouth-watering must. It is an old sweet shop with its own little “factory” at the back. Here the boiled sweets of the Victorians were made. A North East speciality is the “black bullet” here you can sample them and see for yourself why they became so popular. Liquorice in all its many forms is also in evidence from the basic liquorice root, to the bootlaces and sticks that we more easily recognise. Humbugs, Mint Imperials, Gobstoppers, Aniseed Balls, Cough Lozenges, Sherbet Dabs, Multi Coloured Lollies, Parma Violets, the list goes on and on. If you add the smell of freshly produced sweets to the riot of colour in the shop, you will have some idea of what it was like in 1900. Willy Wonka eat your heart out. The Motor and Cycle works have various cars and bikes on display and are adding to these all the time. A comprehensive display of mechanics equipment of the day is also here and the thing that brings it all together once again for me is the smell of the grease and oil in the workshop. Pure nostalgia. Ooooh now the next place makes you cringe, it is a little group of terraced houses, which you can enter at one end of the terrace, and work your way through them all and out the other end. One of these is the dentist’s home and surgery, and if you are lucky (or unlucky if you like) the dentist will be at home and demonstrate to you just how to remove or fil
l a tooth according to the latest Victorian methods, foot powered drill and all. Those of a nervous disposition (such as I) should proceed to the next in the terrace, which is the music teacher’s house. The stationer's shop, printing works, solicitor's office, bank and livery stables are all working and mostly manned examples of this type of work at the turn of the last century. The latter holds the horses that from time to time pull carts or various forms of transport around the museum. Make sure you take a look in the “local”. The Sun Inn gives you an excellent idea of the drinks available, and you can marvel at how the population stayed sober at the prices. The Railway Station is a must for steam enthusiasts, as it has been painstakingly reconstructed by enthusiasts, to depict a real live atmosphere of the age of steam. The smell of steam and the sounds and costumes all go to make a memorable experience. Home farm gives you some idea of what it must have been like to work on a farm before the age of the tractor. Horses did the majority of the work and at various times, examples of ploughing or other activities are demonstrated. There is also a selection of old breeds of farm animals on display (foot and mouth restrictions may apply) The colliery village is absolutely fascinating. There is a church, schoolhouse and selection of houses, all perfectly recreated to show a snapshot of the Victorian age. My daughters, who are teachers, have both been to the schoolroom at Beamish, complete with their classes, all dressed up in their Victorian finery. Here they taught their lessons, as they would have done 100 years ago. Apart from the benefits that the day gave to the children, it added to the realism for visitors to see the school being actually used for the purpose it was intended. The colliery houses, complete with their little gardens, are a true masterpiece
in my opinion. You can wander round at your leisure, peek though windows and doors and marvel at the painstaking detail that has been recreated. Here you can chat to some of the occupants who may be baking bread, washing or busy with a “clippie” mat. Pockerley manor comes complete with gentry and their staff. Wander round and you will see the butler, chambermaids, scullery maids, cook, gardener and other various staff about their business. The kitchens complete with Victorian utensils are well worth a visit. As I said earlier, the museum is on a truly grand scale and its exhibits match up to this. Buildings are being added all the time and as they are actual buildings, which have been painstakingly dismantled and reconstructed, the effect is perfect, in every detail. The Open Air Museum at Beamish is approximately 10 miles south of Newcastle on Tyne and is well signposted from the A1. The opening times and prices are: •April until late October, opening times from 10am until 5pm. •Adults £12.00 •Children £6.00 (under 5 free). •O.A.P.s £9.00 It is well worthwhile checking for offers such as 2 for 1. The best place to check for these offers, is at any tourist information point in the North East or in the local press. Visits are also available during the winter, to the tram and village only at reduced rates. (All tickets are £4 with children under 5 admitted free) Telephone 0191 370 4000 Their website at www.beamish.co.uk gives even more details and is well worth a look.
Oh God! Not another printer op, I can hear you say. But before you dash off to read an opinion that mentions nudity or sex in the title, but in reality is only a snare to trick you into reading about shampoo or toothpaste, give me a moment or two of your time and I will tell you about the ultimate in printers that the manufacturers have devised so far. One problem that you will encounter is that this particular printer is no longer on general sale, so you will be forced to hunt it down in computer fairs or shops that stock old machines such as these. It is unlikely that you will ever see one on sale second hand, as the owners would not part with it for all the tea in Tesco’s. The printer in question is the Hewlett Packard 820Cxi, and I acquired mine in a package containing computer, printer, and scanner etc. some 5 years ago. I do not take any credit in choosing this particular printer, as in reality the printer chose me. The computer has been superseded with the latest in Athlon technology, the scanner is well overdue for replacement, and the original software is now used to scare birds from my veggie patch. The printer however churns out sheet after sheet of perfectly printed paper, just as good as the day I took it from it’s packaging all those years ago. It has at various times in its life been: a footstool for thoughtless teenagers, a multi-storey garage for grandchildren, and a coffee cup holder for yours truly. It has absorbed all this mistreatment and come up trumps every time its services are called on. Occasionally it gags on a piece of lego or a misplaced piece of pork pie, but once it clears its throat a couple of times we are back in business. One day it jammed solid as someone had inadvertently placed a sheet of cardboard inside the paper of the feed tray. Not wanting to face the bill involved with sending it back to HP, I whipped the cover off myself. The jammed rollers eventually wer
e freed and I gave everything a quick wipe down with an oily rag, just to be on the safe side. Once the cover was replaced, the printer coughed a couple of times, and then resumed its work as if nothing had happened. Incidentally I checked with Hewlett Packard and at the time they operated a system by which they would repair a machine regardless of the damage for £50. I have used other printers, both HP and other manufacturers, and indeed have an Epson Photo700 myself for detailed photography work. Newer printers are faster, that is true but are you really in that much of a hurry? They are also quieter, once again true, but there is no way that you could describe the 820 as a “noisy” machine. Ink cartridges prices are exorbitant and there is not a lot that you can do about it. It is always possible however to refill them yourself if you have the skill and patience of a brain surgeon. The new cartridges of the 820 are the same price as most others (£20ish) but the refilling of this printer has never been a problem to me. I have tried with other makes of printer and end up with ink all over the kitchen, the dog and myself. With the 820 however, I have managed to average 4 or 5 refills with very little mess, before the cartridge finally gives up the ghost. If you need a workhorse of a printer I strongly advise you to watch out for this particular model and grab it with both hands if you are fortunate enough to see one for sale. All that there is really left for me to tell you is the boring specification of the Deskjet 820Cxi which I give you full permission to skip as I know you are desperate to read that op on shampoo: •Print Speed = 5 pages per minute (black) 1.5 pages per minute (colour) •Resolution = 600x600 (black) 300x300 (colour) •Memory = 128k •Media Handling 150 sheets •Reliability = 60,000 page life. 20,000 hours
You have designed and published your website and are rightly proud of your efforts. Now all you need is to let the rest of the world know all about it and bring them flocking to your door. When it appears not to be happening as you planned, what do you do? Let me put it another way, think of your website as a car. If it was not performing as you would wish, would you fiddle with it yourself? Or take it to a qualified mechanic at a garage? If you are a “fiddler”, off you go, and I wish you well. If however you would prefer a qualified and competent mechanic to look at it, completely free of charge, then read on. Your site needs looking at by a mechanic, an MOT if you like and I know just the place to go. www.websitegarage.netscape.com. Let the experts have a look at your pride and joy and give you some advice on how it can be improved. When you arrive at the site it is possible to have their “mechanics” take a quick look at one page and give their verdict. It is however much better if you sign up as a member (free) and allow them to give your pride and joy a real going over. They pull no punches and some things they tell you, may not be appreciated by you, especially if you have slaved for days trying to get it just as you want it. Once you are logged in, you are asked for the URL of your site. Once entered it takes less than a minute for Web Garage to check your site, have a 6-page report ready and just to be on the safe side, have mailed the whole thing to your email address ensuring you have a copy of it all. First of all it will give you a diagnosis of the site, which will be: Excellent, Good, Fair or Poor. This is something akin to doo-yoo but with an honest rating system. It then moves on to explain why it has rated your site thus: •Browser Compatibility Fair •Register-It Readiness Good •Load Time Good &
#8226;Dead Links Excellent •Link Popularity Good •Spelling Excellent •HTML Design Good Each of these is a clickable link, which will take you to the relevant page that will explain how you can correct the various mistakes. “Browser compatibility” explains which of the various browsers; IE Netscape etc are having problems (if any) with your site and how to correct them. In practice it is generally the earlier versions of browsers that should give you any problems, and only then if you have ventured into Flash or Java based programmes. “Register it readiness” is important as it checks whether your web page is set up to be indexed correctly by search engines. In practice this means that if you have not inserted “Meta Tags”, now is the time to do it, don’t worry if you don’t have a clue about Meta tags as webgarage can provide you not only with the suggested tags but where in your HTML you need to insert them. It will also check the top 8 or so search engines to see if you have registered with them, and if not, offer to do it for you. “Load Time” checks the time that various speed modems take to load your site, and gives the connect rate in seconds from 14.4k to ISDN and T1. As a general rule it checks the size of any gifs or jpeg’s and advises if their size could be optimised. It also offers to do the job for you. “ Dead Links” checks that all your links are working correctly and if not which and where they are situated on the site. “Link Popularity” tells you how many sites, and who the sites are that have links to you from around the Internet. “Spelling” A spelling check on your site. Not applicable to doo-yoo writers. “HTML Design” c
hecks just how accurate your HTML design code actually is. In practice you will find that it is nitpicking unless your coding is complete garbage. As if all this is not enough, it is possible to have inserted a “hitometer” onto your site that will monitor not only the number of hits, but allow you to understand and analyse your site traffic. It will offer to keep a record of your details, allowing you to make periodical checks (not unlike your car being serviced) on the state of your website. This site will not sort out all of your problems, nor is it all that you need to succeed in the WWW. But as a web tool, it is an excellent and valuable resource.