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To shave or not to shave is one of those decisions that every man constantly makes during his life. I started shaving at 16 and besides a brief flirtation with a beard in my twenties and at the start of my forties I've been shaving daily now for just over 30 years.
During those 10,500+ shaves I've got to know what type of blade works on my skin and any change to a new product is something I do not undertake lightly. I guess like many men I've simply stepped up to the next release of blades as they come on to the market, still relying on the brand name I've become used to.
Earlier this year however I decided I had to make a major change in the blades I used, not due to quality issues but due to cost (I knew the writing was on the wall as soon as razor blades started to be sold with security tags to stop them being stolen). I had been a Gillette man for years and had worked my way up to the Mach 3 Power Blade which retailed at over £2 per blade and I knew that, in my heart of hearts, I'd been taken in by the advertising that convinced me I needed multiple blades, a lubricant strip and a vibrating head. I was initial going to just step down to the standard Mach 3, but these blades still retailed at over £1.50 each, and then I came across the Tesco Triple Blade Shave System (aka a razor).
Now the Tesco Triple Blade is, on first view, a Mach 3 but without the advertising budget and the high price tag. The razor head is a triple blade system and there is also a lubricating strip with aloe vera and vitamin E, more importantly from my point replacement blades only cost the equivalent of 37p each if I bought them in packs of 8.
After being persuaded by the price to purchase this razor I approached my first use of it tentatively (I still remember the Niagara of blood caused by experimenting with cheap Bic razors in my teens). To my surprise the shave was really good. Whilst it wasn't initially as smooth as the Mach 3, once I got used to the pressure needed for the optimum shave I was more than happy with my purchase.
Since then I've used Tesco Triple Blade as my daily razor of choice. There are issues, the shave looks good but I can feel that it's not quite as close as I'm used to, the fit of the razor into my hand isn't as snug as that of the Mach 3 (yeah, I know, just how precious am I?) and the blades tend to wear out quicker - personally I would estimate that Tesco Triple Blades last about half the time. However given the price difference in replacement heads these are all minor points I'm happy to put up with.
For me the Tesco Triple Blade Shave System is a good value, good quality item and, if Tesco can sell a decent blade for 37p, I'd be interested to find out how the 'name brands' can justify their high prices.
After discovering that a package I sent a month ago through the Royal Mail had been lost I was standing in the Post Office needing a sugar fix and decided to go for a sweet that I hadn't bought in some time. It turns out that I've been better than I thought with regard to my buying of sweets over the last few years as this is the first time I've purchased a Daim bar. I'd previously only ever bought Dime bars and apparently the renaming occurred back in 2005!
Other than the name the branding looks the way I remember it, bright red wrapper, the name in bold blue text on a white background and shards of Daim exploding towards you. The price however is much, much more than I'd paid previously - from the corner shop this was 56p for a 28gr bar.
Daim bars consist of a solid centre of almond caramel covered in a thin layer of milk chocolate. On biting into it the bar typically breaks in your mouth and you have to be careful that no chocolate covered shards break from the bar or fall on the floor (or even worse on the car seat and you don't realise until you get home from the post office and the seat fabric's marked and you were borrowing your wife's car...............or maybe that's just specific to me).
Taste wise there is only a hint of chocolate to the bar, the overwhelming taste is of a deep buttery caramel with the almond only coming through as a slight aftertaste, almonds only account for 2.5% of ingredients, as you crunch through it. And crunch is what you have to do, this isn't one of those caramels that will soften quickly, this is a bar that has to chomped down on (unlike ironically chomp bars that can be chewed).
It was at this point I remembered why I hadn't had Daim bars for such a long time, crunching the bar means that caramel gets caught in your teeth. Not a problem if you want to savour the flavour but a big issue if you're just about to step into a meeting or if your dentist sees your mouth as a means of early retirement (as mine does).
After finishing the bar (and trying to clean the car seat) I quickly reviewed the wrapper for further information. One thing I do like about the bar is that it weighs 28gr and that's the calorie information it gives you on the front of the bar - none of this per 100gr, per bar, one row business - one Daim bar has 150kcal (8% of GDA). Meanwhile sugars are at 16.5gr and fat is 9.0gr - no mention of salt or saturates and no conversion into GDAs, I estimate sugar at 17% approx and fat at 13%.
So for me this bar was a case of big flavour and big crunch, which I really liked, but an aftermath that could cause me problems depending on when, where and how often I ate a bar. An enjoyable bar but not one I'll be buying again in a hurry.
Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan
Ok.....Stay with me in this one.....I promise it'll be worth it.....and I won't give anything away......
Set in an alternative now (we first meet Xavier in 2006) this book is built on the not unrealistic premise that technology has been developed that allows for information, experiences, education and self-improvement to be delivered directly into the brain. This is achieved through programmed light patterns that are received through the optical nerves. Because the technology requires a certain physically maturity and brain development it doesn't work until the recipient reaches puberty. In the patois of the book receiving this technology is being 'shined'.
Still with me? Good.....
The story starts with Roksana having a bad day in the city of Los Sombres. Roksana's a teenager who hasn't yet shined although all her friends have. Her dad's at work and something seems to be going wrong, people who've been shined seem to be acting in a strange way.........
Fast forward in time and we meet Xavier who's living with his mum in a commune on the outskirts of Los Sombres 'post-Fall'. The city and surrounding areas have been placed in quarantine due to an outbreak of 'bad shine'. The commune itself exists between the city and the outside world, belonging to neither and is made up primarily of shine casualties, burn-outs and children; all of this is overseen in an unofficial capacity by Powaqa, a Hopi Indian. To try and prevent the 'bad shine' infecting those children approaching puberty, such as Xavier, drugs are being used to hold their biological clocks. Into this insular existence comes a stranger from the city............
What is 'Shine'? What's gone wrong in Los Sombres? Can the Government be believed? What does the stranger want with Powaqa? Who is he? Can the "bad shine" be fixed? Does it have a life of its own? How do Roksana and Xavier fit into all of this? Who/what is FallN - the voice of transmissions coming from the city?
All of these questions and many, many more are answered in the 400 pages following the introduction of the stranger as we discover the city and the truth behind Shine.
So that's the set up to the story, but is it any good??????
This is a complex and well-plotted book where nothing can be taken at face value. On one level this is an adventure story where children have to survive in a world where adults can't be trusted, on another level this is a conspiracy story where there are no obvious answers and the truth always seems just out of reach finally this can be seen as a spiritual story as consideration needs to be given to whether Shine will enable the human race to grow in ways never previously possible.
Tricia Sullivan isn't the easiest of authors to read as she drops you straight into the action without giving you any background into the technology or terminology used. This is only revealed as and when required during the book and therefore the first few chapters can be quite confusing as you try and understand the context and terminology.
Having previously read "Sound Mind" by Sullivan I was used to this approach however and trusted her to explain everything to me in due course. If you're new to her then this approach may be off-putting and I can only urge you to work through it.
I should also add that when I was reading the initial part of the book that deals with Roksana I kept thinking that I was reading a book aimed at a teenage audience (it dealt with her viewpoint, children are unaffected, parents acting weird, etc). It wasn't until "post-Fall" that I felt involved in the storyline.
The only other comment I'll make with regard to the writing is in reference to the Shine passages where the style has to change out of necessity (I can say no more). These sections are difficult to read and I guess difficult to write (from the Acknowledgements at the front of the book by Sullivan "thanks for your writing advice during a difficult passage that I didn't think I'd survive")
As I said previously the plot is complex and therefore this book is probably best read in large chunks to stop any aspects fading between reads. Despite this complexity the book does hang together successfully as a whole, there are no plot lines that just peter out and everything makes sense (as long as you think about long enough).
If you want a book that makes you think, that needs you to do some work, that actually treats you like an educated adult then this is definitely recommended.
If you want a book that doesn't challenge you, you should either look elsewhere or take the plunge and try this anyway!!!
Dairy Milk Bubbly is a relatively new kid on the block having been introduced to the market in 2003/2004 to replace the Wispa bar (times change, nowadays both Wispa and Bubbly are available). Now I was never a great fan of Wispa. Despite the bubbles in the chocolate, I found the bar too big (which is surprising as everyone claims I have a big mouth) and the chocolate too dense to bite through easily.
The Bubbly bar however is a different matter, working to roughly the same dimensions as a standard 'family size' bar, the aerated chocolate works better at this thickness. The bubbles seem smaller than in an Aero and this, coupled with the fact that Cadbury's chocolate is used, give the Bubbly much more resistance as you bite into it than in an Aero which tends to give way.
The taste itself isn't smooth, it's rougher, more granular in approach - the first time I tasted it I thought it was because the chocolate had been stored wrong but (unless I'm really, really unlucky) this seems to be the approach intended. There's nothing wrong with it, it just seems different to the taste I get from a standard bar of Dairy Milk.
Now the danger in 'family bars' is in the fact that quite often they're not shared with the family (in this house they're definitely not hence the use of quotation marks) and that can give cause for concern when the nutritional information is reviewed on the packet. Each 181gr bar consists of eight rows of five blocks and each row contains - 120 calories (6% of GDA), 12.8gr sugars (14.2%), 6.7gr fat (9.6%), 4.2gr saturates (21%) and 0.05gr salt (0.8%). This means that if I had eaten a whole bar whilst watching the rugby on Saturday that would have amounted to 48% GDA of calories, 113.6% of sugars, 76.8% of fat and a whopping 168% of saturates. Now I said 'if' because I didn't have a bar (I'd forgotten to buy any whilst shopping) but it is a concern because in all honesty who can say that they have never eaten a 'family bar' of chocolate?? (Please, please don't let it be just me)
Price wise these are expensive but that's due to the size. I bought a bar from Tesco about 30 minutes ago, to replace my wife's one that I found and ate for research (there were only two rows left, honestly and I hadn't got as far as reading the nutritional information before I finished it), and it cost £1.99. However if you keep an eye on the prices these are often on special offer along with the other Cadbury 'family bars'.
Initially I thought producing a list of my top ten singles would be straightforward but then I wondered 'which top ten'? The top ten I want to impress readers with? The top ten I want to impress my dance teacher with? The top ten that shows off my knowledge of obscure tracks? The top ten that shows I'm really up myself?
In the end I decided to take a 'Roy Plomley' approach to the whole thing and so these are the songs that I would take to my mythical desert island.
10. COME ON EILEEN by DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS (No. 1, 1982)
It's party time! It's the year I left school! It's sitting in the Wurlitzers with Julie at the local fair!
This is the song that was always played to get parties started, the fiddle playing made it sound like music to be danced to, the 'Too-Rye-Ay' lead-in to the chorus that starts slow and then builds enabled a lot of foot stomping with the chorus itself being a full blown singalong from all involved.
A party record that's always guaranteed to get me on the floor at family parties - sincere apologies to all nieces, nephews and other relatives!
9. POPCORN by HOT BUTTER (No. 5, 1972)
Ok, I'll admit this upfront - this is a novelty record of the kind I hate, it doesn't add anything to the world of music and my wife won't let me play it when she's in the house.
But remember when you were young? It's summer, you've no responsibilities, you're sitting indoors watching television even though the sun's out because a worm on the patio looked at you in a funny way and you were a little scared (maybe that last bit was just me, in my defence I'd have only been six). Suddenly you hear a track that's so different from everything you've heard before it leaves an indelible stamp on you. For me that track was Popcorn and I didn't even realise it until I was in my 30's when I heard it on a Golden Oldies show and thought "that's it, the song from my childhood, it really does exist".
The track itself is in fact quite clever but may not mean anything to anyone but me. It does however deserve a place in my top ten (unlike the version by that stupid frog that was released a few years ago).
8. SEX & DRUGS & ROCK & ROLL by IAN DURY (didn't chart, 1977)
Any song that's sung by someone who can't sing and that has a title that nowadays permeates modern culture despite the fact that the single didn't even chart when it was released deserves some serious respect.
Given the write ups in Sounds and NME when this track came out I expected it to be a full on punk roar but in fact what I got was virtually a spoken vocal over a backing that was actually musical. With lines like "see my tailor he's called Simon I know it's going to fit" this definitely wasn't the paean to a hedonistic lifestyle that I was looking for and I subsequently hated this track because I just didn't get it.
Over the years however this has wormed its way into my subconscious and I now enjoy it for what it is - a great tune, clever word play and track that brings a smile to my face. For me this is a reminder of when singles could actually be different and end up making a difference rather than being blasts of mass produced anonymity designed to make Simon Cowell richer. (Sorry end of rant)
7. LIDO SHUFFLE by BOZ SCAGGS (No. 13, 1977)
3 minutes 43 seconds of well formed, smooth pop-rock is probably the biggest insult I could throw at any song but I can't think of anyway to describe this song better. Released just as the music scene was starting to get interesting this should have been the antithesis of everything I liked musically but as soon as I heard the drumbeat start and Scaggs singing "Lido missed the boat that day he left the shack, but that was all he missed and he ain't comin' back" it had me hooked.
It may have been the storyline that got me first of all, the classic 'getting away' type track, but the thing that has kept me coming back to it over the years is the beat, slightly rock with a bit of swing. I dance ballroom and latin (very poorly) and it's my mission in life to get this played on a Saturday night just so that I can attempt to strut my stuff to it on the dancefloor.
6. MILK AND ALCOHOL by Dr. FEELGOOD (No. 9, 1979)
A great pub rock style track that, if memory serves, was originally available in brown or white vinyl (anyone under the age of 25 please feel free to ask what vinyl has to do with music). A lot of the songs I like are long epics but this is a short, sharp piece of R&B with growling vocals. The lyrics themselves were written about seeing John Lee Hooker play live and rather than being a music legend he was simply going through the motions -
"White boy in town
Big black, blue sound
Night club, I paid in
I got a stamp on my skin
Main attraction dead on his feet
Black man rhythm with a white boy beat
They got him on milk and alcohol
They got him on milk and alcohol
Stay put, I wanna go
Hard work, bad show
More liquor, it don't help
He's gonna die, it breaks my heart"
5. WHOLE LOTTA LOVE by GOLDBUG (No. 3, 1996)
This may only work for those of us who are at a certain age and used to visit the cinema, but for me any group who can take one of the best rock songs of all time (Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin) and then mix it with one of the most iconic pieces of advertising music (the Pearl & Dean theme aka Asteroids) deserves recognition.
I missed this totally when it made the charts and found it in a bargain bin at the end of the 90s. I just think that this is really fun music - loud, rocky, tongue in cheek - it never fails to make me smile when I put it on.
4. THOSE WERE THE DAYS by MARY HOPKIN (No. 1, 1968)
This song is far, far outside of my normal listening range so why is it at number 4? Could it be the happy feel to the song that masks lyrics that reflect on bygone days never to return?
Initially my answer would be 'no'. This song reminds me of when I was aged 6 or 7 and my uncle (who was in the army) was based in Germany. Communication then wasn't the easy trip that it is nowadays and so every Sunday whilst having lunch we used to listen to Family Favourites (a radio show that linked families with overseas forces) and, in my memory, this song always seemed to be playing.
Now that I think of it, and now that I'm older, the reason this song is here does go a bit deeper. It takes me back to having dinner with my parents, the sun shining outside and all being right with the world - a personal version of 'those were the days'.
I can't listen to this song without having shivers run down my spine accompanied by memories of a golden time that in reality never existed.
3. HURT by JOHNNY CASH (No. 39, 2003)
Johnny Cash - country music legend - doing a cover of a Nine Inch Nails track doesn't sound as if it'll be a success but against all odds it succeeds. By the time he recorded this Cash was 70 and in poor health and the lyrics take on a whole new depth of meaning as he sings.
"What have I become, my sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away in the end
And you could have it all, my empire of dirt
I will let you down, I will make you hurt"
In my opinion this version blows the original away, this is a case of the words outweighing the original singer - it needs someone who's world weary to really give this song feeling and that's exactly what Cash does.
If you only ever listen to one Cash song make it this one (and if you manage to see the accompanying video prepare to shed a tear).
2. THERE SHE GOES MY BEAUTIFUL WORLD by NICK CAVE and the BAD SEEDS - (No. 45, 2004)
Nick Cave in my view is one of the great song writers of our time, when he's on form he can produce amazingly clever lyrics alongside music that compliments them perfectly. Whether it's just him at a piano singing a love song (Into My Arms), a full blown assault that couples biblical imagery with the birth of Elvis (Tupelo) or marries a rock song with gospel choir going full force (as he does here) you know you're in for something special.
A lot of Cave's work is dark but this song is the total opposite, this is a happy get up on your feet and praise the Lord for music type of song. The build starts straightaway and by the time you're 40 seconds into this five minute plus song it's running at full pelt and feels as if it's got no more to give, but it does, it just keeps building throughout the song until it reaches its gospel climax. And, for me, the lyrics just help to make this song even more special -
"So if you got a trumpet, get on your feet, brother, and blow it
If you've got a field, that don't yield, well get up and hoe it
I look at you and you look at me and deep in our hearts know it
That you weren't much of a muse, but then I weren't much of a poet"
1. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY by QUEEN (No. 1, 1975 & 1991)
It seems a bit disingenuous putting such an iconic song as my number one choice but it's here because for me this is where my education in music truly began. In 1975 I was 11 and whilst I had been into the likes of Sweet, Wizzard and Slade during the preceding years this was the first time I had actually listened to the words of a song beyond those in the chorus (which was just as well seeing as there is no chorus in Bohemian Rhapsody).
I can remember putting all the wisdom of my eleven years to good use by trying to explain to my parents why it was such a great song and what it was all about! Of course I couldn't put what I felt into words then and I don't know if I can now - it's just one of those songs where the whole is so much more than just the sum of the parts (even when those parts are piano, opera, guitar solo, heavy metal and finally a good old fashioned gong bang).
I must have had some success with my parents however as that Christmas I received by first ever proper LP ("Top of the Pops" LPs don't count) - A Night of the Opera. Over the following years, and decades, this song and album has underpinned my love of music.
Even today this song sends shivers down my spine and allows me for 5 minutes 55 seconds to forget the mortgage, the day job, the grief and become an 11 year old once again.
For those of you who don't visit the confectionary aisle in the supermarket, look at sweets in the newsagents or grab some chocolate at the petrol station, Milky Way is soft nougat (aka "a light whipped white centre") covered in milk chocolate and it's made by Mars.
It is notable in appearance in that the most commonly purchased size (determined after a quick straw poll of friends and family) consists of two bars (21.9gr each) within a single wrapper - the only comparable sweet I can think of that uses this approach is Bounty, I discount Twix as that's two fingers not two bars. The duel bar wrapping meant that throughout my childhood Milky Way was a firm favourite with my parents, one purchase to keep two children quiet and no arguing over who had the bigger piece!
One of the things I liked about Milky Way during the 70s and 80s was the advertising. "The sweet you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite" was perfect ammunition to use on my mum when we were at the shops whilst "the red car and the blue car had a race, all red wants to do is stuff his face" song and cartoon was a classic - I still have a vinyl promotional single of the song somewhere in the loft. The red car/blue car advert is running again nowadays but with slightly revised lyrics because.........well because the marketing department has more money than sense.
Of the advert that placed great store by showing that a Milky Bar floated in milk probably the less said the better. (I was going to prove this whilst writing the review but I've just realised I've eaten the Milky Bar I bought for research purposes!)
TASTE AND TEXTURE
The bar has changed slightly over the years, back in the 70s I'm certain the whipped centre wasn't white it was light brown. I believe the change in nougat colour was due to recipe changes rather than a marketing opportunity, as the Milky Way of today has a lighter texture and less chewiness than the one I remember from my childhood.
The bar has a good coating of milk chocolate that actually breaks, rather than just giving way, when you bite through it and into the nougat middle, it's also a clean bite none of the stringiness that you get with soft caramel based sweets. The centre itself is light and sweet but can be a bit cloying, the nougat tends to 'coat' your mouth so that the sweetness can linger long after you've finished eating the bar. Even though I have a sweet tooth I do find this a bit too much and normally have a glass of milk to wash it down.
As with all sweets there is a price to pay when it comes to calories, sugar and fat. The summary box on the wrapper highlights the fact that one bar (note: one bar, not one packet) contains 98kcal (5% of RDA), 14.6gr sugar (16%), 3.5gr fat(5%), 1.7gr saturates (9%) and 0.13gr salt (2%). To try and offset this Mars state on the package that they have taken out 15% of saturated fat and that Milky Way "now has 45% less saturated fat than the average of the top 25 chocolate brands per 100gr" - a statement that is totally meaningless unless you know what the top 25 brands are and have information in grams as well as percentages.
The double bar I bought from Tesco was 46p, on a par with other sweets of a similar size. Of course if you're splitting it between two nieces (ok, I own up I've turned into my parents) that's only 23p a hit.
Slightly different to the Milky Bar of my childhood and probably a bit too sweet for me to eat on a regular basis but still an occasional treat of a lunchtime.
Living in an age obsessed with celebrity we seem to be awash with (auto)biographies from people whose only claim to fame is the fact that they are famous and who realistically struggle to fill an average size book with anything of any real worth. Devoid of real life experiences and lacking any insight into character these mercifully thin tomes are often painful to read and always destined for the bargain bin.
Fortunately this is not one of those books, coming in at a hefty 547 pages plus index this biography still gives the impression that it's only scratched the surface of what has been by anyone's standards a life lived to the full. And while this could have been simply a stringing together of anecdotes and an exercise in name-dropping it's actually more of a journey as we follow Keith from his humble beginnings in Dartford through to becoming, arguably, one of the world's greatest rock stars.
The writing style is informal (expect some swearing - not excessive) and reflects the way that Richards talks and relates to life - don't expect politically correct terms when he's referring to women or his drug experiences to be glossed over. But likewise don't expect a misogynistic view or tales glorifying drug taking - this is the story of a life told in straightforward terms by someone who's tackled life straight on. Occasionally he brings in others to recount stories or tales and this works as a good device to avoid an eternal repetition of "I did this", "I did that".
And what a life it's been. For one man to have fitted so much into his 67 (and counting) years is incredible, as Keith himself says "For many years I slept, on average, twice a week. This means that I have been conscious for at least three lifetimes." And who am I to doubt his calculations? It would seem to be the only way he could have done everything he has and still be going strong.
This biography, and Keith's life, can in reality be seen as a number of contiguous, complimenting and conflicting love stories - Keith and Doris, Keith and Music, Keith and Mick, Keith and his Women, Keith and Drugs.
KEITH AND DORIS
Doris is Keith's mum and instilled into him a love of music from an early age, playing tracks by Ella Fitzgerald, Big Bill Broonzy and the like - "My ears would have gone there anyway, but my mum trained them to go to the black side of town without her even knowing it".
Throughout the book she's there in the background, washing clothes for the Rolling Stones whilst demonstrating washing machines, bringing up his daughter Angela for 20 years, making sure Keith and the X-Pensive Winos actually do some work in the recording studio, right up to the final pages of the book where she lays dying but can still comment on Keith's guitar playing.
KEITH AND MUSIC
What I really learnt from this book was how much Keith loves his music both in his head and in his heart. Whether he's letting the songs come to him through the ether or taking a technical approach to guitar playing in order to understand how sounds interact, it's obvious that he just 'gets' music.
Keith - "It's totally subconscious, unconscious or whatever. The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off. You hear this piece of conversation from across the room.............That's a song. It just flows in."
I remember in the 70s my dad had a copy of Rolled Gold (a Decca cash cow 'Best of') and the sleeve notes referred to the Stones' 'strangely tuned guitars' - it's only now that I've read this book that I understand what they were talking about. In his quest for the perfect sound Keith was introduced to 'open tuning' and subsequently has played on guitars with only five strings. This is written in such an interesting and loving way that even I (as a non-muso) sort of understand the principle!
KEITH AND MICK
Mick is like the brother that Keith never had. The papers picked up on their deteriorating relationship (and the size of Mick's todger) in reviews of this book but the reality is much more than that. They need each other to develop the music that ultimately works best for them both. Life gets in the way of the relationship in the form of women, Keith's use of drugs, Mick's subsequent control of the Stones and developing 'Lead Vocalist Syndrome' but beneath it all Keith recognises that they need each other like brothers. Like brothers they love each other, but that doesn't mean that they always have to like each other.
Keith (on Jagger wanting to be more like Bowie) - "Why would you want to be anyone else if you're Mick Jagger? Is being the greatest entertainer in show business not enough?..........It's fascinating. I can't figure it out"
KEITH AND WOMEN
This book isn't a 'kiss and tell'. There is mention of groupies but it would be fair to say that if Keith was given the choice of sex, drugs or rock 'n' roll he would take them in reverse order every time. The two big love affairs are with Anita Pallenberg and Patti Hansen both of which are revealed in some detail here.
His time with Anita starts with him 'stealing' her from Brian Jones, we then follow their adventures with drugs and each other until their life together begins its decent into a private hell - the death of their son, Anita's drug problems, the death of her boyfriend playing Russian roulette.
With Patti the route is reversed somewhat with the difficulties that had to be overcome with her family - would you want a Rolling Stone to marry your daughter? - before their relationship blossomed into the family life that continues to this day.
KEITH AND DRUGS
This book doesn't shy away from tackling Keith relationship with drugs, indeed it begins with a drugs bust in the 70s, but it doesn't overtly glamorise drugs either. For all the descriptions of staying up for days on end, the insights that drugs give and the fellowship of the druggy, there are also accounts of friends dying, getting away from deals gone wrong and the nightmare of going cold turkey (more than once).
This book recognises the influence that drugs have had on Keith and his life but it records them as fact, something that you would expect in a biography (and on the off chance that any Disney executives are reading this - just because of all the drug references in this book are you really going to drop Keith from the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie? Grow up and grow some.)
This book is recommended to anyone who has even a passing interest in music. Whether you like the Rolling Stones or not is immaterial, this is a book about life, love, mistakes, relationships and, ultimately, contentment.
Work nowadays for many of us (and for better or worse) is no longer a 9 - 5, or even an 8 - 6 concept. Instead it's a case of working as and when the client/customer dictates. The references to decreasing working weeks and lots of free time that were frequently made by Tomorrow's World in the 1970s now seem a quaint idea that will never come to fruition.
As part and parcel of this modern approach to work I use a laptop in front of the television, or at the dining table, during the evening. The heat coming from the base of the laptop is a bit of a problem however - on the dining table I worry about damaging the old wooden surface that my wife loves, in front of the television on my lap is fine during the winter as it keeps my legs warm but during the summer whilst wearing shorts it's a much more painful proposition.
Therefore when I saw the Targus Lap Chill Mat in Clas Ohlson's last week I thought it would be a wise investment - the fact that it was for sale at a discounted price of £19.99 (down from £24.99) definitely helped as well.
- What is a Targus Lap Chill Mat? -
The clue is in the product name, this is a mat (ok really it's more of an angled base) that cools your laptop as well as whatever it happens to be sitting on. This is done with the use of two integral fans that are powered via a USB connection (it's compatible with both USB 1.1 and 2.0). The laptop itself sits on a rubber base that has four grips to stop it moving about the base which is sized at 380mm x 300mm x 50mm.
The Lap Chill Mat also comes with a 2 year limited warranty.
- What's it like to use? -
This is one of the easiest computer associated products to use. You simply unpack it, place the laptop on top, plug in the USB cable and that's it! The fans are quiet - just a faint background hum similar to that of the laptop's internal fan. And it does exactly what it claims; I worked for 3 hours yesterday in front of the tv and not a hint of burning flesh.
- Problems? -
There are a few problems but nothing serious.
The Lap Chill Mat adds an extra 1.05kg in weight to the laptop, not excessive but it does become noticeable after a while (I'll use it as an indicator that I'm working too hard).
The instructions warn that the small rubber grips on top of the Mat "can be removed by force" and therefore to keep it out of the reach of children. In reality the rubber grips are easily removed - I used no force whatsoever. This may be a problem in households with enquiring young fingers.
- Would I recommend the Targus Lap Chill Mat? -
Definitely, anyone who uses a laptop as intended (i.e. on a lap) will benefit from this!
I like my food to have character; I can't be doing with bland or mushy food. I like something that I can bite into, something that has a distinctive taste. This approach to food started when I was at school and my mum was the school cook - I decided then that there must be more to food than solid mashed potato served with ice cream scoops, suspect pieces of meat and weekly concerns that the tapioca was made from real frogspawn.
Working from home last week I popped into Tesco looking for a spicy snack for lunch and came across their onion bhajis. The picture on the packaging looked inviting enough and at £1 for six bhajis (total weight 280gr) I figured that they were a bargain.
On returning home I put on the oven (they need 10-12 minutes at Gas Mark 6 or 200C) and then read the small print across the back of the packaging. There was nothing surprising, the ingredients were quite standard (basically onions, flour, oil & spices), the bhajis were suitable for vegetarians and, as I had suspected, they were packed with calories and fat. One bhaji contained enough calories to cover 6% of GDA and the fat represented 10% of GDA - in other words if I decided to pig out and eat the whole pack myself these six bhajis would be responsible for more than a third of the calories, and close to two thirds of the fat, that I should consume during a day!
I decided to be sensible and I cooked two bhajis, leaving the others to be eaten later on in the week.
After the allotted time I took them out of the oven, put them on a plate and disappeared into my office (ok - the small back room that's filled with junk and has a small space for a laptop). The smell as they were cooking wasn't overpowering, it was just enough to get my tastebuds tingling as I looked forward to a hot, tasty snack. They stopped tingling as soon as I took my first mouthful. These bhajis were a very poor relation to those served up in an Indian restaurant.
They had crisped up on the outside but the centre was simply stodge with pieces of onion included. According to the packaging these are meant to be "crisp, light fritters".
I guess the problem is in the way that the bhajis have to be made in volume. If they were made by hand then the centre wouldn't be so compact, there would be air-pockets and it would be easier for them to cook all the way through and have a consistency of texture.
Their wasn't a significant taste of onions - which is surprising as according to the ingredients onions make up 86% of the mixture. Instead the spices took over and not really in a good way, they left a tang in the mouth which I suspect was the coriander powder. According to the packaging however these are meant to be "delicately seasoned".
They reminded me of an onion bhaji mix you used to be able to buy in the 80s (you may still be able to) - you added water and chopped onions to this dried mix and after cooking the result was meant to be restaurant style onion bhajis - it never worked.
I was so disappointed by the taste and texture of the bhajis, I convinced myself that I must have made a mistake when I cooked them. The following evening I cooked them again, this time with my wife there to make sure that I wasn't doing anything stupid. I wasn't and they were just as poor as they had been the previous day.
Even when the price is taken into account this is a poor attempt to replicate a restaurant and/or hand made dish on a production line. The strap line on the packaging probably says it all when they describe the onion bhajis as being an "Indian style snack".
Indian style? I don't go out in the evening for an Indian style meal, I go out for an Indian.
Definitely something I won't be buying again. I'd rather pay £2.50 for a smaller portion from the takeaway than £1 for six of these. Or if money is tight I'll simply learn how to cook them myself.
Whilst shopping yesterday in the local food store I had an absolute nightmare that led to me being reacquainted with an old friend.
The nightmare? The store's card reader declined both my cards and I had no cash on me - fortunately the problem turned out to be their equipment rather than my finances.
The old friend? Whilst trying to cover my embarrassment from the queue of shuffling customers behind me I looked down at the confectionery rack straight at a bar of Caramac, something that I hadn't eaten for at least 20 years.
Caramac was initially launched in 1959 by Mackintosh (caramac is a contraction of caramel and mackintosh) and after 50+ years is still going strong. This is one of the few bars you can buy off of the sweet rack that isn't made from cocoa or its derivatives, instead its ingredients include sweetened condensed milk, sugar, butter and treacle.
Given the ingredients it's hardly surprising that the finished product is extremely sweet. When I was younger this seemed heavenly but after a 20 year gap it came as a bit of a shock to the system, initially the sweetness put my teeth on edge. Then there's the flavour, it comes across as artificial (the strap line on the wrapping is "the caramel flavour bar" rather than "the caramel bar" after all). Rather than building slowly like the taste of chocolate does, Caramac is there immediately hammering on your taste buds.
None of the above is necessarily a bad thing however. The size of the bar at 30gr is just enough to get the hit of sweetness without it being too overpowering - there used to be a Caramac Easter Egg apparently, I can't think of anything more horrific.
Again given the ingredients this is never going to be the healthiest of bars. This is borne out by the nutritional information supplied on the bar, 30gr contains 173 calories, 16.7gr carbohydrates (16.4gr are sugars) and 11gr fat of which 9.7gr is saturates. On the plus side it should be added that Caramac is suitable for vegetarians and is free from eggs and nuts.
And so how do I feel about my old friend after all these years? Well my tastes have definitely changed and I don't think I could eat this as often as I used to (I can hear the waistband on my trousers sighing with relief as I type that). My occasional treat list will however have Caramac added to it - at 43p per bar a treat I can afford even if the card reader breaks down again.
Regardless of how good I'm trying to be with regard to my diet every now and again I need a sugar rush, I need a hit of chocolate, I need something naughty (but nice) to see me through to dinner. It's then that I turn to my secret weapon - the finger of Fudge.
This bar of soft fudge covered in milk chocolate has been made by Cadbury since 1948 and is still holding its own against more modern sweets. Weighing in at approximately 26gr (sorry I had to calculate this from the calories, I was too quick in eating the bar) I find this the ideal boost, the bar itself is small enough to minimise the number of calories I'm taking on board whilst being large enough to give me the instant hit of sugar and flavour that I need. Given the small size of the bar the price is correspondingly low. It currently has a recommended retail price of 17p - ideal for those of us who are also on a financial diet.
Despite the low price the quality of the product is high. The fudge centre actually tastes like it should. There's a smoothness to the sweet, sugary, fudgy taste whilst the texture has a very slight graininess to it - think creamy fudge that's just beginning on its journey to become butter tablet. The chocolate that covers the bar is standard issue Cadbury's and it complements the centre perfectly.
So after two bites (three if I'm in company and acting 'proper') the bar's gone and I'm congratulating myself on only having eaten a small sweet to tie me over until the next meal. But am I kidding myself? What's really contained in the finger of Fudge that I've just eaten?
Well looking at the wrapper will show you that you've just consumed 115 calories, 16.3gr sugar, 3.9gr fat, 2.2gr saturates and 0.1gr salt - for the occasional treat these are definitely not excessive figures. The wrapper also shows the proportion that these make up of the Guideline Daily Amount (GDAs) - if you're an adult eating the bar yourself ignore the GDA percentages, in really small type at the opposite end of the wrapper it tells you that these GDAs apply to children (on the premise presumably that this is a child's sweet because of its size and not suitable for us adults who like to fill our faces with larger bars of chocolate).
I haven't seen this product advertised for some time but back in the day the rhyme always used to start "A finger of fudge is just enough............"
For once in my life I actually agree with an advert - a finger of fudge is just enough to see me through to my next meal!
At the outset I should explain that I'm not a great one for breakfast and normally a slice of toast and a cup of tea will more than suffice. However on occasions I do like to take my time at the breakfast table (ok I'm just playing up to the audience there, normally I'm sitting on the sofa in front of the television) and as fried breakfasts are virtually verboten nowadays I have a bowl of cereal.
I should add at this point that I have quite an idiosyncratic approach to eating cereal - I have it without milk. As you, dear reader, recoil in disgust let me quickly explain that I don't eschew milk altogether from breakfast it's just that I don't like them together, mushy food just doesn't do it for me. A nice dry crunchy bowl of cereal followed by a glass of milk has suited me for the last 40+ years and I see no reason to change now! (Just as an aside - if any psychiatrists are reading this and my eating habits indicate some deep personal trauma please get in touch!)
With all the personal baggage now out of the way on to the review of my current cereal of choice - Tesco's Honey Nut Cornflakes. For those that don't know these are corn flakes with brown sugar, peanuts and honey.
When compared to a premium product such as Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Cornflakes it's obvious that this is a cheaper alternative. There is only a very slight taste of honey, the crunch isn't as crisp and the 'nuttiness' is more of an aftertaste. Probably because of the lack of honey taste, these also aren't as sweet and for me that is a positive, lowering the initial sweetness of a product allows the customer to adjust it to their own personal taste.
All the above isn't to say that Tesco's Honey Nut Cornflakes are poor quality or lack flavour, they don't. It's just that they don't compare favourably to a premium brand. In their own right they are more than acceptable in my cereal bowl.
Price is an important factor in all purchases at the moment and it's here that Honey Nut Cornflakes win hands down. Whilst Kelloggs retail at £2.99 for 750gr, the Tesco alternative is only £1.79 - that works out as 40p per 100gr and 24p per 100gr respectively. Even the largest box of Crunchy Nut (1kg) can only bring the comparable 100gr figure down to 35p per 100gr.
Like a number of own brand products the packaging is remarkably similar in colouring and style to that of the market leader, in this case Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. This allows for product recognition by association. Tesco's don't have to advertise their cereal specifically as the likeness to an advertised cereal helps draw the eye. Beyond this the packaging is relatively generic - the same image front and back and nutritional information and ingredients on the sides.
The Small Print (i.e. Nutritional details - boring but essential)
I thought that this would be the most boring aspect of the review (hence the title) but in fact this turned out to be the most complex and interesting part as you will see.
First of all it should be noted that this cereal is promoted as being fortified with vitamins and iron. As a result a 30gr serving contains 30% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of items such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Iron, it also contains 60% of the RDA for Folic Acid.
With regard to nutrition a 30gr serving contains 120 calories, 10.1gr sugar, 1.3gr fat, 0.3gr saturates and 0.2gr salt - this corresponds to 6%, 11%, 2%, 2% and 3% of guideline daily amounts (GDA).
On reviewing this I wondered whether this was excessive on the sugar front (these are honey nut cornflakes after all) and compared it to the Kelloggs alternative. Interestingly it initially appears that Tesco's have fewer calories, less sugar, less fat and less salt - this is however because an immediate comparison cannot be made. The Tesco figures are based on a 30gr serving whereas Kelloggs is based on 30gr plus 125gr semi skimmed milk.
Annoyed that someone was making life difficult for me I decided to look into the contents of semi skimmed milk. When these are taken account of I believe that a fair comparison between the two products for a 30gr serving plus 125gr semi skimmed milk can be seen below -
Tesco Honey Nut Cornflakes
Calories 120 + 63 = 183
Sugar 10.1 + 6 = 16.1gr
Fat 1.3 + 2.25 = 3.55gr
Saturates 0.3 + 1.38 = 1.68gr
Salt 0.2 + trace = 0.2gr
Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Cornflakes
Calories = 180
Sugar = 17gr
Fat = 4gr
Saturates = 2gr
Salt = 0.4gr
Through this it can be seen the two products are broadly comparable in terms of calorific value and sugar. But Tesco's Honey Nut Cornflakes are preferable when consideration is given to fat (incl saturates) and salt. Whilst the figures may not seem large in terms of grams they are when consideration is given to GDA. Using Kelloggs own figures 0.4gr of salt equates to 6% of GDA.
For me Honey Nut Cornflakes, whilst not having the depth of flavour associated with premium brands, are the cereal of choice. They are excellent value for money, they are not too sweet and personally I believe that they win on the nutritional front.
Quantum physics is the bedrock upon which the world we perceive, and interact with, is based.
A bedrock that is made up of the infinitesimally small - molecules, single atoms, subatomic particles.
A bedrock where the bizarre is an everyday occurrence - objects that don't have definite properties until they are measured, multiple universes, virtual particles popping in and out of existence, distant objects with instantaneous connections.
It's also an area that some people have heard a little bit about without realising or truly understanding it - Schrodinger's cat (is it alive? is it dead?), alternate worlds, the multiverse, relativity, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
Finally there's the impact that it's had on popular culture, be it evil Spock from a parallel universe in Star Trek, Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors or songs such as "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" by Hawkwind.
Now I would like to say that my interest in quantum physics came from study but in reality it came initially from the aforementioned song and then from my uncle who was forever trying to explain to me how there were infinite universes and that every time 'something happened' the universe split. I have previously read books on quantum but they were either too academic or they dealt with the personalities and intrigue that went into the development of the associated theories. Therefore when I came across this book by Chad Orzel and realised that it may give me the ability to actually understand what was going on I had to read it.
Chad Orzel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Union College, New York where he specialises in atomic, molecular, and optical physics. So he definitely has the right qualifications to understand quantum physics. Explaining, however, is a different matter; especially through the written word where there isn't the opportunity to ask questions. In order to address this difficulty the book is based around discussions that the author has with his dog Emmy. Emmy's main purpose in life is trying to catch bunnies (stupid but quick) and squirrels (wannabe evil geniuses). As she uses the author's explanation of quantum physics to try and develop her plans to catch the critters it enables us (the reader) to step back from some of the theories, take a breather and consider them in 'real world' terms.
Does this approach work?
I believe that it does. The subject matter is still difficult but explaining things through terms that Emmy would understand definitely helps. For example when discussing "many worlds" and the principle of decoherence (the reason why we can't interact with other universes), the description of an interferometer and interference patterns is useful but it was the likening of this to walking two identical dogs around Hyde Park in opposite directions and how they interact with their environment that actually helped me to understand what I was being told.
Don't get me wrong this approach doesn't turn the book into a Noddy's Guide to Quantum. You still have to think and argue against what you believe is common sense as you work through the book, but what it does allow you to do is 'shelve' the academic reasoning if something is particularly difficult, read the discussions with Emmy and then revisit the theory with that at the back of your mind.
Would I recommend this book?
Definitely, if you're interested in science and want to understand a little bit more about how the world/universe/reality works then this is the book for you. However, even though this book only has 265 pages (excluding glossary, etc), it's not a book to sit down and read quickly from cover to cover. I found it much easier to read until my brain felt full, put the book to one side and then read something totally different for a while, only returning when I felt that my brain could cope with another visit to the bizarre world of quantum.
When I was a child there seemed to be three main events that happened every year - Christmas, my Birthday and Easter. Of all of these the one that fascinated me the most was Easter, because I never knew when it was! The date kept changing and the only way I knew for sure that it was Easter was when I woke up and could smell the aroma of hot cross buns coming from the kitchen. (I should add at this point that I grew up in the early 70s - very little in the way of television and Easter wasn't just an extension of Christmas from an advertising perspective).
Being a child my favourite part of Easter was the parade of chocolate eggs that arrived from my uncles and aunts, with pride of place being given to the Milkybar Easter Egg I always received. To this day I can remember the creamy white egg and what seemed like the world's biggest silver dollar hidden inside the shell - a silver dollar made of solid white chocolate.
As we all do I grew up but I retained a love of milkybar - but a love that only existed in memory as Nestle only made them for children. That was until a fateful day in the early 80's when a friend arrived with something new he'd found in the supermarket - a large, adult sized milkybar! My love affair with white chocolate and more specifically Nestle's Milkybar was rekindled.
Nowadays Milkybars come in any variety of sizes and forms but for me the only way to really enjoy it is in traditional bar form.
Being an adult I now know that white chocolate isn't strictly chocolate at all as it's made with cocoa butter but does that really matter? I love the smooth taste and the way that it melts if I hold it in my mouth - and I find that milkybar is smoother than other white chocolates I've tried (and believe me I've tried a lot). It may be because I remember the taste from such an early age that I find no other white chocolate tastes the same as milkybar - if I could find a sponsor I'm certain I'd always be able to identify it in a blind tasting.
Of course there's a downside and if you read the reverse of a milkybar wrapper you'll find that amongst the nutritional information your 100gr of loveliness contains - 2279kJ/546 kcal, 57.7gr carbohydrates (all sugars) and 31.6gr fat of which 20gr is saturates. All told a 100gr bar provides just over a quarter of an adult's Guideline Daily Amounts with regard to calories - scary stuff!
With regard to price, in my local Tesco the 100gr bar was available for £1.02 yesterday (I obviously had to buy a bar for research purposes). You can find cheaper own brand white chocolate but I find that harder and more grainy. There is also more expensive 'posh' white chocolate but personally I find that too perfumed for my taste.
And so what to do when something you love comes with strings attached in the form of calories?
My answer is the mantra I use in assessing a number of things "everything in moderation including moderation itself". A calorie laden bar once in a while shouldn't hurt - just remember that 'a while' should be defined in weeks not days!
For the last 8 years we've used a toaster that we received as a present from my parents. That is until it gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago and went to toaster heaven (where all the bread is soft and crumbs are cleaned away).
Looking at buying a new toaster for the first time in years, I was surprised by variety of toasters on the market. I was expecting an easier decision (something along the lines of 2-slot vs 4-slot) than the one I was actually faced with. Eventually after thinking about what we required (bagel toasters anyone?) and with one eye on the price we settled on the Morphy Richards Accents 4-slice toaster.
From our perspective the main selling points of the Accent were -
Style - This might sound like a minor point but when you've just had a new kitchen installed it's important to make sure that you don't have one piece of equipment that doesn't seem to belong. Anyway, the chrome aspects of this toaster were perfect (although they do take a bit more cleaning).
Variable Controls - Little things mean a lot early in the morning and in our case it's the fact that I like my toast on the pale side whereas my better half prefers hers well done (but never cremated, life isn't worth living if you present her with charcoal coloured toast!) The variable controls allow us to set the toaster so that we both end up happy - currently my side is set at 4 and hers at 6.
Variable Width Slots - I work from home and tend to rely on toasted sandwiches for lunch when the weather's on the cold side. With my old toaster I would make a sandwich, place it in a toaster bag, force the bag into the toaster and then wait until rising smoke indicated that my lunch was ready. With the Accent the variable width slots mean that I can place my toaster bag in the toaster and I don't have to rely on smoke signals to judge when the sandwich is ready.
Removable Crumb Trays - We (and when I say we I mean my other half) used to have to turn the toaster upside down and shake to remove crumbs. With the Accent, removing crumbs is so easy that even I can do it - two trays simple pull out allowing old crumbs to be cleared away.
Price - We purchased the Morphy Richards Accents from Tesco for just under £50. Not the cheapest toaster available but one that seemed to offer the best value for money.
So now that we've had this toaster for a few weeks would I recommend it? Yes, unreservedly. All the selling points mentioned above have proved their worth and the toast produced is evenly browned on both sides making a perfect addition to that early morning cup of tea!