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My hair is thick, wavy/curly, dry and frizzy. Keeping it under control is a nightmare, and Im always trying new shampoos and conditioners in the hope of finding one that gives me the silky smooth locks I dream of.
One of the best products I found was LOreal Kerastase, but at £14 plus per bottle it was starting to stretch the purse strings a little too much. So I headed to the supermarket to find what LOreal did at a more reasonable price.
And then I saw it Elvive, a shampoo with nutrileum, an apparent wonder ingredient that really does calm that frizz. It was on offer for £1.99 for 300 ml, so I dont know what the usual price is, but I would guess its around £2.50 to £2.99 a whopping saving of around twelve quid on my other LOreal product.
I like a good lather with my shampoo, and Elvive did not disappoint. Normally I dont get any lather going until my second shampoo, but this one lathered up first time. For the second shampoo I only needed a pea sized amount to get the same results.
Texture wise, the shampoo is an orangey semi-transparent colour, unlike many dry/frizzy shampoos which look more creamy. It was also thinner than many others too.
Dont let that put you off, however, as it lathers up into a lovely silky creamy foam that washes out easily and leaves your feeling really clean.
In terms of smell, its distinctly on the citrussy side, but I couldnt put my finger on exactly which citrus fruit or fruits are involved. Not that it matters, because the smell is very nice and fresh.
So what about the results?
Well, I used both the Elvive shampoo and conditioner, and the results were excellent. My hair was still wavy (of course), but there was far less frizz and it felt soft and silky rather than coarse and dry. And the effects last until my next shampoo.
Ive been using the shampoo now for about two months and its as good as ever. The results are great whether I blow dry my hair or let it dry naturally, and if I use straighteners afterwards my hair is so glossy and smooth that I dont even need a serum to finish off.
I can honestly say that this shampoo is as good as the Kerastase I was paying a fortune for from the salon.
If your hair is very dry, frizzy or coarse, I highly recommend LOreal Elvive Nutrileum in terms of both price and performance. Whatever that 'nutrileum' is, it works!
Monster is the movie that propelled Charlize Theron to international megastardom and won her a Best Actress Oscar to boot. It is the true story of the infamous Aileen Wournos, prostitute and serial killer, who was executed in 2002 for the murders of seven men while going about her business on the Florida state highway.
Aileen Wournos childhood was horrendous. Some of the facts written about her are open to conjecture, but it is fairly certain that she was beaten by her father, sexually abused by her brother and grandfather, and raped by someone else close. She had no real friends and was constantly teased. Before hitting her teens, she was selling blow-jobs for cigarettes and soon after that began having sex with any boy or man who looked her way. She became pregnant in her early teens some say by her grandfather, some say by the local paedophile, some say by any of the innumerable males who had lain between her legs. Her family made her give away the baby and then disowned her. It was the depths of winter, and she went to live in the woods.
Before long she was patrolling the highways as a hitch-hiking hooker, using the money to buy booze, cigarettes and the occasional bed for the night.
It is at this point in Aileens life that Monster begins.
One day Aileen finds herself in a gay bar, where she meets a girl called Selby (played by Christina Ricci). Selby is herself a troubled individual, struggling to express her sexuality within the confines of a highly religious and disapproving family. Aileen and Selby recognise in each other a sense of the outsider, and a short friendship they embark upon an affair.
In Aileen, Selby has found an escape, someone who will take her away from her family and who will work to keep her. Simultaneously, Aileen feels herself loved and genuinely desired for the first time in her life.
When Aileen (now calling herself Lee) is raped by a punter, the demons of her childhood are resurrected. In retaliation, she shoots him dead.
Determined to keep this a secret from Selby, Aileen moves the pair to a new home (for which you can read new motel room) and tries to get herself a regular job. Naturally, with Aileens lack of social skills and work experience, she finds no work, and is forced to return to highway prostitution.
At this point, Aileens killing spree really begins. She is unable to actually have sex with any of her punters since the rape, but Selbys demands for a comfortable lifestyle hang heavy on her shoulders. She flags men down on the road in order to kill them, and steal their cars, valuables and money.
Eventually, inevitably, Aileen and Selby are caught.
From here the film focuses on Aileen herself, her incarceration, confession and trial. Selby, who did not know about most of the murders, is absolved by Aileen and then turns witness against her.
In terms of the direction, there is nothing of note to say about Monster. There are no fancy camera angles, no sweeping metaphorical panoramas, no startling close-ups or atmospheric long-shots. Were it not for the explicit language and violence, it could easily have been one of those made-for-TV movies you used to see a lot of in the afternoons.
Monster is not a movie about direction really, but more one of performance.
Much was in the press about Therons amazing physical transformation when she played this role, including gaining 20-30 lbs, and indeed her resemblance to Aileen is remarkable. More remarkable than this, however, is her performance. Theron embodies Aileen so convincingly that you soon forget that you are watching an actress playing a role. Her accent, her walk, her mannerisms and facial contortions all give depth and truth to her performance and enable her to say much more about her character than is in the script.
The let down for me in this film was the character of Selby. Ricci does not give a bad performance, but the character in the movie is nothing like the real Selby. In real life, Selby was a very large redhead, whereas Ricci is an extremely slight brunette. In real life Selby was not kept by Aileen, but worked several different jobs, and often very long hours, throughout their relationship.
In other movies, Selbys fictionalisation wouldnt matter. But in this film, where so much trouble has been taken to get the character of Aileen just right, it seems strangely at odds to have Selby so untruthful.
Also, by casting Selby as a huge financial drain on Aileen, the movie adds a motive for Aileens killing spree that simply did not exist.
Anyone who has read one of the many books written about Aileen Wournos, or who has seen either of the two documentaries by Nick Bloomfield, will know that getting to the truth of Aileens motives is an impossible task. Though without doubt Aileen had the most terrible childhood, many myths have grown to shroud those years. And no one has ever really got to the bottom of whether or not Aileen was actually raped by the first man she killed. Before she died, Aileen changed her story continuously, sometimes claiming not to have been raped, sometimes claiming to have been raped by that first guy, and sometimes claiming to have been raped by all of the guys she murdered.
Rather than attempt to unravel the mystery of Aileen, Monster has actually added to the confusion by presenting some facts as they were and completely distorting others. This gives the film a lack of focus and leaves you asking as many questions at the end as you had at the beginning.
Also, the movie is for me rather too much in sympathy with Wournos. By presenting her as a woman with a genuine motive (at least for the first killing), and as a woman who is manipulated by the emotional demands of her partner, it appears to give rather too much credence to her behaviour. Writer, director and cast seem to have forgotten that no matter what horrors lay in Aileens upbringing the woman was a severely disturbed, psychopathic and sociopathic danger to society.
That said, however, I do recommend this film. The story is involving, the pace is reasonably brisk, and the performance of Charlize Theron is one of the best I have ever seen and is in itself worth watching the movie for.
Just dont expect any answers and dont believe everything you see and hear.
I knew I shouldnt have done it. I knew as I filled in the form that it was a mistake. But they just kept putting those catalogues through my door and I was really, really bored one day and decided to flick through and have a look and
well, the name, BETTERWARE
it makes you think you might be getting something QUALITY (even if the flimsy catalogue and even flimsier looking items therein tell you otherwise). And this was the day Id had the carrot-grating finger accident
But Im rambling. This is to be a coherent, informative review, so Ill start again.
Betterware is a mail order company selling a wide range of household items. They work by having agents who pop their catalogues through your door, with a little pre-printed note letting you know when theyll be back to collect your order.
The catalogues themselves are small, square affairs, printed on thin, not very glossy paper. The catalogue is full of photos which are described in terms sometimes perfunctory and other times glowing you wont find so many miracle items in such a small space anywhere else on earth!
Betterware sell the following types of items:
Cleaning products - a wide range from polishers, stain removal, laundry, car and general purpose
Garden products - hoses, tools, cleaners and more
DIY gadgets and products - tools, fillers, gadgets, garden ornaments and many others
Cookware - from pots and pans to microwave cake tins
Personal care items - remove unwanted hair, dry the hair you do want etc. etc.
General homewares - window cleaning systems, mops and buckets, lots of ingenious devices you'd have never have dreamt up yourself
Among the products come a whole variety of things you never knew you needed, such as a mobile phone cleaning pouch (Just pop the phone inside and rub), a ring remover stone (Specially formulated to remove limescale from around the toilet rim) and foot scrub wipes.
Prices are reasonable and quantities/sizes are often large, making the products seem like good value. Also, there are often plenty of special offers with money off the usual prices.
Anyway, to explain my earlier ramble: I was bored, so picked up the catalogue and had a flick thorough.
I had just been making a salad and had been grating carrots on my bog-standard silver upstanding grater. Yet again, Id sliced off a good portion of my finger.
And what did I find in the catalogue but the Twist and Grate, a plastic and metal contraption in which you drop your cheese/carrots/nuts etc. You then put the top on, twist, and hey presto - grated food drops out of the bottom! And it was only £4.99.
I felt a bit mean just ordering the one thing, so added on some CD wipes. They were £3.99 for a pack of 40 and promised to remove dust and scratches in a safe way, making those annoying skipping and smudged discs playable again. I was a bit suspicious but figured it was worth a try on my damaged discs which sat unplayable on my shelf.
Next day, my local agent collected my order and informed me I could pay (by cheque, cash or card) upon delivery.
Three weeks later, my order arrived.
First the Twist & Grate: I was surprised to find that it was only about 5 inches tall. Somehow I had imagined it to be twice that size. Disappointed, I chopped some cheese into pieces small enough to fit into the two grating cavities (by which time I could have just grated them), popped the lid on and twisted. Or tried to twist. Nothing happened. I put more effort into it and managed to get a twist. Nothing happened. I gave it all my strength. Ditto.
I threw it in the bin.
Next the CD wipes: I took three damaged CDS (one dusty and jumping, on with a scratch and a habit of sticking, and one with finger marks that both jumped and stuck). I wiped as per the instructions, then tried them one by one in the CD player. No improvement. I repeated the whole process. Ditto.
I threw them in the bin.
Next day, moaning about Betterware to my Dad, I discovered that he had had similar experiences with some mildew remover and smear free window cleaner.
So, to summarise
Betterware sell a wide range of household goods at reasonably cheap prices. The goods take forever to arrive. In my experience, and that of my Dad, they do not work. Hence they are not value for money.
Betterware Yes, but better than what?
Oh yes, they have a web site too, at http://www.betterware.co.uk. On my one visit, that didnt work properly either.
I swore Id never buy a Dyson. Not at that price. How good could a vacuum be to warrant such a whopping monetary difference? No matter what I read, or how good people told me a Dyson was, I didnt believe the price could possibly be justified. A classic case of paying for the name.
But then 6 months ago yet another vacuum cleaner broke on me after not much use and I decided to face the told you sos and splash out.
After a lot of reading, researching and online price comparisons, I decided on the DC08 Animal cylinder model. I thought that maybe it was the cat hairs that had buggered my previous vacuums, so decided to splash out on a model specifically designed to cope with the havoc pets wreak on your carpets.
I paid around £220 for my DC08 Animal from the online Co-op Electrical Shop. This is about £40 more than the DC08 non-animal version. For your extra £40 you get a couple of attachments specially designed to pick up animal hairs.
(Incidentally, do make sure the description of your DC08 is followed by Animal if you want this model. Comparison sites offer you prices from £184, but they are NOT the Animal version.)
When the product arrived, gleaming silver-grey and mauve, I approached it with great expectations
The manual was very comprehensive and included plenty o diagrams and text in several languages. Following the instructions, I had it fully assembled in around 10 minutes.
The DC08 is reasonably compact. Its unique design does not follow the typical lozenge shape of most cylinders nowadays, so it is a little awkward, though stylishly so. The compactness is lost, however, by the size of the hose. The hose is massive, meaning you need quite a bit of storage space for it. The hose does click on to the body, but that makes little difference to the overall size.
Along with the main components came several attachments:
Animal Turbo Tool
Small Animal Turbo Tool
The attachments can all be clipped on to the hose, but I found this made handling rather awkward so I left them off.
Duly set up, I turned the thing on and prepared to get to work.
I began with the Animal Turbo Tool and discovered that, my god, it is powerful. By the time Id been over the bedroom, the dust collector was half full of animal hairs and dust that I had no idea were even lurking in the wool. I was extremely impressed.
Then onto the stairs with the stair tool. The tool itself is extremely adept at getting into those corners and again is powerful enough to pick up all the deep-down dirt. My only problem here was that the body of the machine does not fit on a stair, so I had to keep hold of it with one hand whilst vacuuming with the other.
Next to the living room rug, a favourite sleeping haunt of the cats. Animal brush once more attached, I turned it on and WHOOSH! The rug began to disappear into the tube. After retrieving it, I put the small Animal tool into place and encountered the same problem. I then fixed the standard brush onto the hose and found I could vacuum without problems and with brilliant results yet again. In fact, the standard brush seemed just as effective at picking up dirt as the Animal one.
I then used the standard brush on my wooden floors and it worked brilliantly.
Crevice attachment next, and it got down the back of my sofa easily and produced excellent results again.
Not being a curtains person, having a house entirely kitted out with blinds, I didnt then and havent since used the little brush attachment.
So am I pleased? Well mostly.
ON THE PLUS SIDE
The best thing about my DC08 is that it cleans so well that your carpets actually look like new. It removes dirt and pet hairs that are deeply embedded, meaning your home is cleaner and more hygienic. Ive also noticed that cat allergy sufferers visiting my home are sneezing less.
The dust collector is a good size. I find I can do every room in my house before it needs to be emptied. Its great not having the hassle of bags to empty and replace. Simply click the bowl off the body and tip your debris into the bin.
Also, you never have to change the filter, which is a major plus as it can be a dirty and fiddly job.
ON THE DOWNSIDE
My DC08 is not the most manoeuvrable of objects. It seems to have an inbuilt ability to seek out furniture and lodge itself firmly under, behind and around it. I am constantly having to put down the hose and go and dislodge it from places before I can move any further. Its one of those little things that REALLY gets my goat.
The cord rewind is also a little troublesome. Some days it works as smooth as clockwork, other days I need 3 or 4 goes to get all the cord to rewind.
The most important thing about a vacuum is its performance, and the DC08 is superb at picking up dirt. It really is a class of its own. Five stars without a doubt.
However, the fact that it keeps getting stuck, that the hose is difficult to store, and that the cord doesnt rewind as well as it should, do knock a star off. They might be only minor annoyances, but they are things that a name and price-bracket such as Dyson should be getting right.
In the end, I cant decide whether or not the Dyson is worth the money. It is certainly worth more money than other vacuums, but the gap is so large I find it hard to justify. Also, the standard brushes are so good and do pick up so much animal hair that I dont think its worth paying the extra £40 for the Animal attachments.
That said, cleaning performance is as I said the most important factor, and I cant fault my DC08 on that.
Highly recommended, but it aint perfection.
It is darkest night. There is a torrential rainstorm. Roads become flooded. Public phone lines are brought down. Cell phones cannot get signals. Ten strangers are forced to abandon their journeys and take refuge at a lonely motel run by a guy not shuffling a full deck. So far, so Hitchcock. The motel is next to an ancient Indian burial ground. It is spooky. So far, so Stephen King. One by one, the ten start to die ? each hideously murdered by an unknown, unseen assailant. Unless they stick together, there will be nobody left. Fortunately, however, at least one of the ten is a cop. So far, so Agatha Christie. But I?m jumping ahead of myself. Let me introduce you to our characters: 1. The motel owner. Pure white trash, rather unwashed, staring eyes and a ?don?t go in fer that book readin? stuff? vocabulary. 2. An egotistical TV actress with a career going fast down the tubes 3. The actresses chauffeur, a former cop 4. A family on vacation ? mother, father and son. When the car gets a flat tyre, the mother steps out into the road and is hit by the aforementioned chauffeur. 5. A twentysomething prostitute who is giving up the game to go and grow oranges in Florida. It is her discarded stiletto that causes the flat tyre that causes the accident above. 6. A pair of newly-weds ? the bride pregnant - returning from their Vegas wedding 7. A cop, driving a handcuffed convicted triple murderer across the state A seemingly unconnected group of people who have never met before, but who we know must have something in common. While this motley crew become violently depleted and the survivors try to figure out who?s doing it, we move elsewhere to an office where a multiple murderer, Malcolm Rivers, is being interviewed by his psychiatrist. We learn that Rivers is due to attend an appeal hearing to plead against the death penalty. His psych
iatrist intends to get him off the hook on the grounds that he is completely insane. So we have two mysteries to fathom out. First, who is killing the occupants of the lonely motel, and second, what has all this to do with Malcolm Rivers? I, of course, am not going to tell you. What I will tell you is that Identity is a fast-paced, grisly movie. Director James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted) piles on the tension with lashing wind and rain, eerie darkness, gruesome detail, short scenes and murder after murder after murder. Each murder is quite preposterous and takes place much too quickly to have really happened, or in places where it would have been seen by at least someone. The murderer is far too fleet of foot and swift of knife/axe/rope to be believable. We also have many scenes of people going off on their own into the darkness, despite vowing to all stick together in the light of what is happening to them. And we have our characters screaming their heads off one minute, then acting as if it?s just a normal day the next. So far, so cheap teen slasher movie. The risible, derivative script is ably hammed up by a cast of unknowns and two big names ? John Cusack and Ray Liotta ? who do deserve praise for managing to keep a straight face throughout. But back to our psychiatrist and his patient. Do we get to find the connection? Yes, we do. And it is the most absurd connection imaginable. Not only is it absurd, but anyone with any psychiatric knowledge or work experience fill find it to be a sensationalist, grossly oversimplified and downright insulting portrait of mental illness that could undo 100 years of serious research and replace it with dangerous hokum in the minds of the general public who are unfortunate enough to watch this dross. When I read the blurb on the back of the DVD box, I expected Identity to be a genuinely tense thriller and a fascinating examination of the huma
n psyche. Or at least a nail-biter in the best Hitchcockian or Christie tradition. What I got was one of the most formulaic, ill-informed, risibly scripted, hammily acted and completely unbelievable pieces of total nonsense I have ever had the misfortune to sit through. Certificate: 15 Running Time: A mercifully short 90 minutes Not recommended. Unless you like the idea of every teen slasher cliche mixed in with some very sub-standard Hitchcock and Christie formulas, swirled with a good dose of cod psychology and topped off with enough ham to keep Pizza Hut in business for a week.
The movie ?Narc? has pretty good credentials. Produced by Tom Cruise, screenwritten and directed by Joe Carnahan (Mission Impossible 3), and starring Jason Patric and Ray Liotta, it is a cop movie that harps back to such 70?s classics as ?Serpico? and ?The French Connection?. It is based loosely on a true story about the murder of a Dallas police officer which was the subject of an acclaimed documentary called ?The Thin Blue Line?. THE PLOT Nick Tellis (Patric) gets suspended from the Detroit police force after a pregnant woman is tragically shot at a drug bust he?s in charge of. He spends his days looking after his baby son while his wife is out at work, and torturing himself by reliving the horrible shooting incident day after day. He does not want to return to the force, but does not know what else to do with his life. His wife does not want him to return to the force under any circumstances. So, he is the cop we have seen so many times in films ? the tormented, sensitive yet tough one, the one who?s seen and done too much, the one who has the police force running through his veins. And, like all cops of his genre, his work causes him trouble at home. Some time after his suspension he is called before a review board and asked to help crack a particularly difficult and sleazy case where another officer was murdered. He is told that if he does this one job, all charges against him will be dropped and he can return to the force with a nice, unstressful desk job. The murdered cop?s partner and leader of the investigation is Detective Henry Oak (Liotta), the archetypal old timer with no idealism, a past full of dirty deals, a violent temper and a get-stuck-in approach. Hence we have the standard anti-buddy partnership as the two opposites are forced into an uneasy alliance. Both have the same aims, but their means of attaining them come from opposite moralities. As the investigation pr
ogresses the pair go deeper and deeper into the narcotics underworld, and the tension and dirtiness of the job starts to jangle Tellis?s nerves. This in turn causes more trouble at home, which in turn causes more trouble at work etc. etc. The partners eventually zone in on two likely suspects, drug dealers who ply their trade from a grubby little chop shop. Oak browbeats a confession from the two, but it is soon apparent that they are not the guilty parties as the much darker truth begins to come to light and threatens to destroy both officers. THE ACTING Liotta does a good nut case, and ?Narc? is no exception. I can?t explicitly criticise his performance, but can only say that we?ve seen it all before. Patric is also very good as Tellis, but again, the confines of the character give him nothing new or different to experiment with and show us. Elsewhere the singer Busta Rhymes pops up and gives a solid, though again predictable, depiction of a dealer. THE DIRECTION Carnahan does the best he can with his own well-written but rather hackneyed plot. He makes great use of lighting to produce a general feeling of grime and depression all around, which nicely mirrors Tellis?s inner state and the soiled world in which he is working. The pace is kept reasonably swift and the rather boring domestic scenes are kept good and short. Pace is lifted as the movie rushes to its exciting, though unsurprising, climax. OVERALL ?Narc? is not a bad film. It is well acted and has a gritty 70?s atmosphere which I really liked. The trouble with it is that it is utterly predictable, and thus the elements of shock, surprise and tension ? on which such films rely ? really don?t work. I didn?t hate the film, but I certainly didn?t love it. I don?t regret spending 1 hour 47 minutes of my life watching it, but neither am I glad I did. The movi
e was a hit with most critics, but for me it was neither a hit nor a miss. Do I recommend it, then? The answer is: I don?t know. But I?d certainly say rent it rather than buy it. OTHER INFO Made by Paramount Pictures, 2002 Available at amazon.co.uk for £11.99
I?m a huge fan of Lush products and aim to try something different each time I go on a shopping expedition on their online store. Almost every single time, the new thing I?ve tried has turned into a favourite. One that hasn?t, however, is Lush Skinny Dip body wash. Actually Skinny Dip isn?t classed as a body wash or bath/shower gel, but as a skin conditioner. Therefore, it not only washes, but smooths and moisturises the skin as well. I was attracted to Skinny Dip by the description: ?How would you like to smooth melted white chocolate, creamed coconuts and many exotically scented essential oils all over your body?. Well that sounded pretty darn scrumptious to me, being a lover of chocolate and coconut, so I bought some forthwith! Skinny Dip is a beigey coloured liquid with the consistency of any other shower gel. One thing to note, though, is that the ingredients tend to separate, so it often needs a good shake before use. Being a hand-made and fresh product, as per all Lush products, you will find a use-by date and the name of the maker on the bottle. It is also not tested on animals and suitable for vegetarians. But onto the product? I was very excited opening my Skinny Dip for the first time, anticipating the smell of a Bounty bar. Alas, neither ingredient was discerned by my nose. All I could smell, in fact, was cloves. Now I associate cloves with two things. The first is baked ham, which I wouldn?t like to smooth all over my body. The second, even worse, is the oil of cloves I was given as a child to combat toothache. And it didn?t help my toothache ? it just tasted and smelt so strong and vile that my toothache paled in comparison. I didn?t want to smell of cloves (or ham, or toothache), but I?d paid good money for my Skinny Dip - £4.70 for 250 grammes - and I was going to use it. Fortunately, things then got more pleasant. The lotion produced a lovely rich la
ther which cleaned my skin very well and left it super-smooth right until the next wash. So do I recommend Skinny Dip? Well, yes and no. It works brilliantly and really does condition your skin. However, the smell of cloves is overpowering and stays on your skin for ages. Skinny Dip is undoubtedly a quality product that does what it says it will, but I won?t be buying it again purely because of the smell. If you don?t mind the clove pong, however, you?ll absolutely love it and your skin will love you for using it. But it probably won't get rid of your toothache.
Coolaulin is a conditioner for curly, dry and processed hair. Now there are lots of conditioners out there made for this type of hair, but this one is different because it?s made by Lush. And you can?t review a Lush product without reviewing Lush the company. So if you?re already a Lush fan, skip the next paragraph, but if you?re new to this amazing organisation, read on? Based in Poole, Dorset, with branches selling their goods worldwide, Lush are a cosmetics company like no other. One look at their quirky and utterly unique website at www.luch.co.uk will tell you that. But what makes the company so different is their ethos. Lush believe in using fresh, natural ingredients and making everything by hand. So the scents always come from real essential oils, if something says it?s made with lemons/oranges/pineapples you can be sure it contains the real fruits, and everything is either vegetarian or vegan and is not tested on animals. And because it?s all so fresh ? some products even have to be kept refrigerated ? you?ll find that just about everything has a use-by date stamped on it (as well as the name of the person who made it). But back to Coolaulin.. The conditioner comes in a plastic bottle and is a creamy, beigey colour. It comes in 3 sizes: 490 grammes, 290 grammes and 100 grammes, priced £7.30, £4.90 and £2.60 respectively. Coolaulin is made with real coconuts ? not just the scent of coconut, but the milk and the flesh as well. It also contains real organic lemon juice and essential oils of vetivert, benzoin and styrax (not sure what they are but if the state of my hair?s anything to go by, I like ?em). The first thing you notice about Coolaulin when you open the bottle is the smell. It really does smell like mashed up FRESH coconuts, and is a million miles away from the normal coconut scented products you buy in supermarkets and chemists. In a word, the smell is DELICIOUS. (If you like coconuts ? that
is. If you don?t like coconuts, steer well clear as this product is so very very coconutty that it will be your worst nightmare). Texture-wise, the conditioner is quite thick and very creamy. You use Coolaulin after shampooing like any other conditioner, and you?ll notice that it goes on very smoothly and combs through like a dream. You can leave it on a while to work deeply into your hair, or rinse off as soon as you?ve combed through. I tend to rinse off immediately, but leave on for about 10 minutes once a fortnight for a really deep condition. Coolaulin leaves my coarse, curly hair incredibly soft, very shiny and totally tangle free. But best of all that wonderful coconut smell lasts for a good couple of days, meaning that my hair always smells and feels clean. Coolaulin isn?t a cheap conditioner by any means, but it is worth the extra if you have thick, unruly hair like mine. I don?t need to use as much as I do of cheaper conditioners, and that smell is worth the price all by itself. Highly recommended. Available from Lush stores worldwide or www.lush.co.uk
Watching (and reviewing) a Holocaust drama is an experience of mixed emotions. Can you ? and SHOULD you ? say that you enjoyed it? Are you MEANT to enjoy it, or suffer through it? When you assess it, is it right to comment on its merits as a piece of art, or should the subject matter override all other considerations? I studied Holocaust literature and film at university, and this was a debate we often had. We came to no conclusions. So please excuse me if I seem to come from what to you is an insignificant arty-farty perspective, or if, on the other hand, you think I let the subject take over and cloud my judgement. I find myself in something of a quandary. The Pianist begins in war-time Warsaw, when the Nazis had invaded and the segregation and punishment of Jews was beginning. It tells the true story of Wladek Szpilman, a Jewish Pole who was a truly magnificent pianist. Wladek comes from a successful family who live a very middle-class, cultured life. Wladek is intelligent, reasonable, caring and incredibly gifted. He is instantly admirable and likeable, and we relate to him immediately. His family are normal, intelligent, decent people, and their relationship of bickering, discussing, joking and chatting is like many of our own. But their lives begin to change as new rules and laws against the Jews come into force. First it is the wearing of the Star of David on their arms. Then they are forbidden to walk on the pavements, but must trudge through the gutters instead. Everywhere they go, Nazi officers are looking out for their transgressions, either innocent or deliberate, which they punish with verbal abuse, beatings, and death. Jewish people?s property and effects are then confiscated, and all Jewish people are forced to live in the crowded, filthy ghettoes. They work for a pittance, if they are allowed to work at all. And incrementally, they are herded onto trains and taken to the concentration camps. This
is what happens to Wladek?s family. Wladek, however, escapes this latter fate and goes into hiding in a variety of places in highly dangerous non-Jewish Warsaw. He is helped by several gentile Poles along the way, but his isolation and fear is suffered mostly alone. He is starved of company, conversation, his beloved music, and even food. The Pianist tells the story of one man?s strength, endurance and courage in the most horrendous of circumstances. It also ? by their eerie absence ? tells the story of the Polish Jews. Though we never once venture into a concentration camp, we know that the characters who populated the early frames of the movie are there, and they are never out of our minds. As the story concentrates on the character of Wladek, mush of the success of the film rests on the central performance of the actor who plays him: Adrien Brody. And Brody gives one of the best cinematic performances I have ever seen. Wladek is an incredibly difficult role to play, as he is so often alone where he does not talk. Yet Brody manages to convey to us Wladek?s fear, loneliness, despair, anger, loss and confusion. We suffer his mental, emotional and physical pain as he goes through the days of his degraded, shattered life. We share his dread of discovery and feel the almost omnipresence of the Nazi guards as he dares to open a window, take a step or pull a curtain aside. Other actors in The Pianist include Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox and Frank Finlay. All give sterling performances, though the honours of course go to Brody who caries the film more or less single-handed. Director Roman Polanski does not include one scene without Wladek as the main presence, and hence we see and interpret the world through Wladek?s eyes. Polanski recreates wartime with meticulous attention to detail, and makes very effective use of the dark nights, freezing fog and bone-chilling ice to create tension and danger
, and communicate the overwhelming physical cold that adds to Wladek?s misery. He also makes full use of silence and noise, jolting us from a silent scene where Wladek is alone and (for the moment) safe to a sudden loud arrival of stormtrooper?s boots, or the sound of machine guns, screaming and staccato German shouting. Polanski spares us no details of horrific reality. Jews are shot for sport, or for effect, and they are beaten, thrown from windows or tortured. We see all of this, and we see the shot bodies of men, women and children in the streets. We see people starving and degrading themselves for a morsel of food. Intermingled with the horror, however, are moments of tenderness that lift our hearts, such as when Wladek is helped by people who are risking their own lives to do so, or when his music plays in his head and momentarily transports him to another time and life. The Pianist is a bleak, horrific and highly disturbing film, but also one of great hope and humanity. Although the images of the horrors I had seen stayed with me long after the film was over, I was also left uplifted and full of admiration for Wladek Szpilman and others like him who triumphed over the evils that were perpetrated against them. The day after I watched The Pianist I read the Daily Mail. It was full of exaggerated claims about asylum seekers scamming our benefit system. It demeaned their humanity and cast aspersions on their ethnicity. It implied that their suffering was not worthy of consideration. In my opinion, it incited racial hatred just as the early Nazis did during Hitler?s rise to power. It was more subtle, of course ? far more subtle ? but it was there and it disgusted me. The Pianist is sadly all too relevant a film. Watch it as soon as you can. Running time 2.5 hours. Certificate 15. £14.99 at choicesdirect.co.uk.
Irvine Welsh?s Trainspotting was a publishing sensation in 1994, and one of my all-time favourite novels. Eight years later, when Welsh reunited the Trainspotting characters in Porno, I had mixed feelings. I was absolutely dying to read it, but afraid that it wouldn?t be as good and that it would be a contrived piece of moneymaking. Could the characters stand the test of time, and would they have anything to say to each other or to us, the readers? For those who didn?t read Trainspotting, it concerned a group of mates from the poor areas of Edinburgh and their drinking, violence and, mainly, drug-taking. On the whole they were a thoroughly nasty bunch ? though also entertaining, funny and even charismatic. The novel ended with them all involved in a drug-dealing scam in which they were ripped off by one of the main characters, Mark Renton (Rents). Eight years on we find them living distinctly different lives: Rents is running a club in Amsterdam, abstaining from the heroin he was addicted to and in an unhappy relationship with his German girlfriend. Sick Boy (Simon David Williamson, or SDW) has been working in London clubs and pimping, but returns to Leith to take over his aunt?s grotty pub and get rich by one means or another. Begbie, the violent, psychopathic one, is just out of prison where he?s been doing a long sentence for murder. And Spud, the kindest-hearted but biggest loser of the gang, is still in Leith, still struggling with heroin addiction and trying to desperately to keep his relationship with his girlfriend and his son going. Meanwhile, both Sick Boy and Begbie are obsessed with getting their revenge on Rents, and Begbie?s been getting homoerotic correspondence which he thinks is Rents? way of taking the mickey (though they?re actually from Sick Boy, who has always hated Begbie but is a physical coward and would never challenge him outright). Also on the scene is ?Juice Terr
y? (so-called because he used to work on the juice, or pop, lorry), who?s as sex mad as ever. On his return to Leith, Sick Boy finds Juice Terry and his mates making stag movies. Ever the budding entrepreneur, he sees a way to make some cash and sets about working with the stag movie crew to make a proper porn film. Enter a new character, Nicola Fuller-Smith, a middle-class English student who works in a sauna by night and is up for anything sex-wise. Soon she is one of the stars of the movie and Sick Boy?s lover. Thus Porno moves us largely away from the heroin world and into that of the sex industry as the movie ?Seven Rides for Seven Brothers? is made. But don?t think this means we get no drugs in Porno ? sick Boy?s got a voracious cocaine habit, Nikki?s a doper, Begbie likes a bit of ching himself and Spud can?t say no to anything. On a trip to Amsterdam, Sick Boy finds himself face-to-face with Rents and immediately puts his revenge on hold as he sees that Rents has the contacts to distribute his film. Thus the two become partners and Rents returns to Edinburgh and a life of fear of Begbie and total mistrust of Sick Boy?s motives. Whilst here, he also takes up with his old girlfriend, Diane, who is now a PhD student. Along the way we get shedloads of explicit sex, plenty of drug abuse, language that would kill your grandma, violence that makes you literally wince, and a variety of unsavoury, immoral and often very funny scams. Porno is for me Welsh?s best work since Trainspotting, and I?m delighted to say that the transition from the 1990s to the present is seamless. The characters have all matured in their own ways, but all are instantly recognisable. It?s to Welsh?s great credit that he has been able to once again get under their skins and give them new life. Welsh?s trademark themes are also present, such as his innate dislike of the middle classes, his hatred of the touristy nature of Edi
nburgh, his simultaneous loathing and glorification of violence and his refusal to blatantly judge the morality of his literary crew of ne?er-do-wells. I loved Porno from start to finish and fund it hard to put down. Being a sequel, and that sequel having influenced so many novels since, Porno doesn?t have the shock-value or the utter uniqueness of Trainspotting. It is however, funny, interesting, stomach churning and a wonderful romp of a read. The pace is fast and the plethora of stories within the story always keeps boredom at bay. One thing to mention though, is that, as with Trainspotting, much of the story is written in strong Lethian dialect. Personally I didn't have a problem with that but I know some people do, so if you couldn't get it first time around you probably won't this time either. If you read Trainspotting first, you?ll get a lot more out of Porno. However, Welsh has made sure that those not familiar with the first book will pick up the thread that has led to the characters? dysfunctional relationships and will be able to enjoy the book on its own merit. Highly recommended. Now I can?t wait for the film. The paperback is published by Jonathan Cape, is almost 500 pages long and can be bought for £5 odd at amazon.co.uk. ISBN 022406181X
When I saw Comfort Fast Dry on the shelves at Tesco I had to try it. I?m a sucker for trying anything new anyway, but this fabric softener was very appealing to the eye in its bright yellow bottle, and most of all it was promising hitherto unoffered benefits. At £1.94 it was considerably more expensive than other Comfort softeners of the same price, but what the hell. If it did what it said it did, it might be worth it. So what does it say it does then? Well, as well as providing the lovely fabric softness and fragrancy we have come to associate with Comfort, as the name suggests, this one claims to dry your clothes faster. It does this, it says, by removing more water from your washing machine on the spin cycle than other fabric conditioners. It doesn?t say how it does this, so I?m assuming it has some water repelling particles or some such thing to keep the moisture out of your clothes and into your washing machine?s emptying pipe. Now I liked the sound of this because, firstly, I would save on electricity by using the tumble dryer less, and secondly, I wouldn?t have to worry about my non-tumblerable work clothes drying for Monday morning when I?d only washed them at 11 pm on Sunday night. You use Comfort Fast Dry like any other fabric conditioner, i.e. by pouring the required amount into the fabric conditioner dispenser on your machine. So I used my Comfort Fast Dry as instructed and then dried my wash partly on radiators, partly on an airer and partly in the tumble dryer, as usual. Did it make a difference? No. My wash needed the same amount of time as ever in the tumbler, the clothes on the airer dried at the same rate as normal, and the turn-ups on my work trousers were still damp next morning as usual. On the plus side my clothes felt nice and soft smelt lovely, and didn?t cause any skin irritation. However, my normal favourite Comfort (Mandarin and Ylang Ylang) does all this for
52 pence per bottle less. It might be my washing machine isn?t too good at extracting water, of course, but I don?t think so. What I do think is that Comfort Fast Dry is a waste of money. Time is an abstract concept and I think that Lever Faberge took this philosophical approach when using the word ?fast?.
Grattan catalogue has been going for years and years. A friend of mine used to have it, but I considered the clothes too frumpy and plumped for Freemans instead. However, Grattan and Freemans joined forces some time back and I noticed that the Grattan clothes went distinctly funkier. Tempted by the free welcome gift, I signed up pronto. Grattan is a high-quality glossy catalogue of a whopping 1023 pages. Because of its thickness, it?s very useful to balance a hot plate on if you?re eating off your knee in front of the telly, and it?s also good to lean on if you?re writing. RANGE Back to the real purpose of the catalogues, and here?s what they sell: Women?s, men?s and children?s clothes Sportswear Shoes Household goods Household appliances Toiletries Fitness apparatus Personal care and grooming items Toys Electrical goods PCs Cameras Furniture and furnishings Mobile phones Jewellery Garden Equipment Insurance, breakdown cover and personal loans Phew! In other words, you?ve got the whole of the high street in the one book which you can flick through at your leisure. QUALITY When it comes to clothes, quality is variable. Generally the more expensive the items, the better the goods. Having said that, I?ve had cheap things like t-shirts and pyjamas that have lasted for years. They also have a range of funky ?designer? labels, including Betty Jackson, and clothes from high street stores like Oasis and Warehouse. And for the more mature or conservative dresser, there are plenty of different clothes ranges too. The downside with clothes is that they are often the ones you saw in the stores last summer/winter, and sizes can vary quite dramatically. There is a size guide at the back of the catalogue but it?s pretty meaningless as you will find that one item fits in a size 12 and in another you need a 16. In electr
ical, household, toys and garden equipment, they sell the same brands you get in the big stores. Occasionally they have obscure cheap alternatives, but they tend to stick with the mainstream manufacturers. ORDERING You can order by phone, form or website. If you?re an agent, you can sell Grattan items to others as well as buying yourself, and you pay monthly installments over 20, 40, 50, 52 or even 156 weeks (APR 29.9% charged on the 52 to 156 weeks terms). Agents get 10% cash back on everything that they and their customers buy. If you have a personal account you also get the cash back. Having an account is very useful as it works on an ?add to? basis, which I?ll try and explain: if you bought something for £200 and had paid off £100 of it, buying something else for say £50 would then bring your payments down as your account would sort of start all over again and you?d be paying installments based on £150 not £200. (I do hope that makes sense). If you?re not an agent you can buy by paying upfront. If you order by phone you can sometimes find yourself in a queue of a few minutes, so you have to pick your time. I find early mornings and late evenings the best. Customer service staff are friendly and helpful at all times, and can tell you right there and then whether or not your item is in stock, and if not when it will be. DELIVERY I don?t find Grattan too hot on delivery and often wait 5-7 days for the courier to bring my goods. However, you can have next day delivery for a fee of £2.99. RETURNS All goods come on 14 days approval. If you don?t like them, simply ring your courier or Grattan and they will come and collect from your door free of charge. PRICES There?s always a downside, and alas the price is it with catalogues. Clothes are usually competitive but household appliances, electricals, tools etc. are o
ften more expensive than in the stores. However, you do get your 10% cash back if you?re an agent, and of course being able to pay for things over up to 50 weeks interest free is a big bonus. So you pays your money and you takes your choice. WEBSITE The Grattan website is good but limited. It doesn?t show all of the items in the catalogue, particularly the household and electrical things. It is good for clothes, though, and it?s fast, easy to search and easy to order from once you?ve registered. And they are very swift at replying to emails in a very helpful way, which always impresses me. EXTRAS On the whole, Grattan is good at keeping its customers through a variety of incentives. They have almost always got a free gift going, they are always running ?buy now, start paying in x months? time? schemes, and if you haven?t ordered for a while they?ll send you letters offering discounts of 10-20% on your next order. OVERALL Grattan isn?t perfect, but it is very good. The range of goods is phenomenal, they are all presented and described well, and it is very easy to order and return items. Cash back is great if you?re an agent and it?s really convenient being able to shop in the comfort of your own home and having plenty of weeks to spread the cost of your purchases. On the downside are the inflated prices, the fact that you have to pay extra if you want your goods in less than 5-7 days, and the very unpredictable clothes sizes. If you?ve never had a catalogue than Grattan is a good one to go for and really does have something for everyone. Just don?t get carried away with all the fantastic stuff at your disposal and try not to give in to the temptation to take on more debt than you can easily afford.
As this is going to be a negative review, I feel it only fair to set the record straight to forestall accusations of bias. I AM indeed biased. I loathe Tom Hanks (has there ever been a more sentimental, straight for the tear ducts movie star?) and I can take or leave Leonardo di Caprio (he can act, but in a rather ?by numbers? way). So it was going to take something pretty special for ?Catch Me If You Can? to impress me. I did consider not renting it all, but I liked the idea of the true story it was based upon, and I quite fancied watching something with a stylized 50s/60s feel. Plus, it was directed by Spielberg himself who, A.I. very much excepted, usually comes up with the goods. Anyway, onto the plot? Di Caprio plays Frank Abignale Jnr., a smart, caring teenager who watches his Walter Mitty father go bankrupt, his mother sleep with his father?s friend, the family downsize to a crabby apartment from a luxury all-mod-cons home and his parents? marriage split up. Driven by a desire for adventure and an emotional need to give his parents back everything they lost, he turns into one of the most famous conmen (or I should say boy, his incredible story all happening by the age of 19). Through impersonation and forgery Frank Jnr. poses as an airline pilot, a pediatrician and a lawyer, and makes himself millions of dollars in the process. All the while he is chased by FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks). In other hands, this could have been an exciting, amazing, tense and humourous rollercoaster. But it?s not. It?s well over 2 hours of utter tedium. This isn?t helped by the fact that the film begins after all the events and so we know from the start that Frank gets caught. Meaning that there?s no suspenseful ?if? in the film, rather just a matter of ?when?. Di Caprio as Frank Jnr. is ok. His cutie pie features enable him to pass as a teenager with no trouble, but simultaneously make it hard to believe that others would a
ccept such a youngster as a pilot/doctor/lawyer. He isn?t bad at the smoothness that enables him to get away with his escapades, but I got the feeling that he simply learned his lines, stood up and said them, instead of getting into his character and giving it his best. Hanks goes completely the other way, overacting to embarrassing proportions. His New York accent is pure comic book and he just doesn?t pull it off when he tries to act tough and/or sardonic. Standing out as a beacon of talent in this is Christopher Walken as Frank Abignale Senior, an ever-optimistic failure. It?s his best performance for yonks and he is the only character with any true depth. Sadly, however, he?s not in the film enough to redeem it. For me the problem lies with Spielberg. Always great at pace, he loses in on this movie and keeps it going way, way past its sell-by-date. And he can?t seem to decide whether he?s making a serious movie about a damaged teenager who turns to crime, or a cat-and-mouse thriller, or a quirky comedy. He mixes all three together and none of them work. I was ready to turn the film off half way through and the only way it?s stayed in my mind is to remind me that time is precious and two plus hours is too much to waste on dross like this. Catch it when it?s on TV if you must, but sit in a hard chair or you?ll be off to the land of nod after the first twenty minutes.
True heartburn and acid indigestion is horrendous. It hurts, it stings and it BURNS LIKE HELL. It makes eating and drinking a nightmare, you feel permanently awful and sleep is virtually impossible when you?re in its grip. It doesn?t just affect your stomach, but your whole oesophagus and even your poor old throat. There are lots of causes of heartburn and many are related to intolerance to certain foods. Spicy foods, acidic foods and drinks, dairy products and alcohol are some of the most common culprits. Overindulgence is also a guaranteed heartburn-generator, hence many will suffer more than usual at Christmas or after a night on the booze. Most of the treatments around for heartburn and acid-indigestion are antacids that you suck or chew. They work by coating the stomach, reducing inflammation and neutralising acid. They are a temporary fix that may only bring relief for an hour or so before you need some more. As a result, you can be only half way through a bad heartburn day and have already taken the maximum recommended daily dose. Zantac 75, however, works differently. It contains 75 mg of the drug Ranitidine which works by not only neutralising acid in the gut, but also preventing the gut from producing any more by blocking the action of histamine. And the effects last for up to 12 hours. Dosage is one tablet at first, followed by another if no relief is felt after an hour. Simply swallow the tiny pinkish tablets without sucking or chewing. I?m quite a bad heartburn sufferer and find that I generally need the double-dose. However, that fixes me for a good day and I can carry on eating and drinking what I like without any trouble. And most of all, I can sleep. No more than two tablets should be taken in 24 hours and they should not be used by children or by people with liver and kidney failure. It should also be noted that ranitidine and alcohol don?t mix well, leading to a rise in blood alcohol lev
els. Side-effects are said to be rare but can include constipation, diarrhoea, fatigue, headache, insomnia, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, agitation, anaemia, confusion, depression, easy bruising or bleeding, hallucinations, hair loss, irregular heartbeat, rash, visual changes, and yellowing of the skin or eyes. A horrifying list yes, but very similar to the ones you see on most medicines. I have never noticed any side-effects with Zantac and I do take it quite regularly. The side-effects, in fact, are in my opinion a lot less worth worrying about than the price. A little pack of 12 tablets costs £3.99 or more, depending on where you buy it. By any standards, this is exorbitant. However, I?ve recently discovered to my delight that Tesco do their own IDENTICAL tablet with IDENTICAL ingredients in IDENTICAL measures. It?s simply called Ranitidine and it sells for £1.89, HALF THE PRICE of the ?big brand? Zantac. Zantac I give 5 stars for effectiveness and 1 star for price. Good old Tesco I give 5 stars on both counts, as with their ranitidine neither your heart or that hole in your purse will be burning.
After the major disappointment of Acid Row, I swore I?d given up on Minette Walters. I considered that novel so beneath her talents that I was determined not to let her let me down again. However, after assurances from my mum that Walters was well and truly back on form, I got myself a copy of her latest paperback, Fox Evil, settled down with a coffee and found myself instantly hooked. The Plot: Nancy Smith, the adopted daughter of gentrified country parents, receives a visit from a solicitor informing her that her natural grandfather wants to get in touch. Happy as she is, she refuses point blank. Then she receives a letter from her grandfather which makes it clear that her natural family is beset by secrets, shame and tragedy. She is intrigued. James Lockyer-Fox, Nancy?s grandfather and a retired army colonel, lives alone in a huge house in Shenstead Valley, Dorset. He is ostracised in the village and besieged by obscene phone calls accusing him of murdering his late wife, Ailsa, who died the previous year. James and Ailsa had two children: Leo, a playboy and gambler, and Elizabeth, a drunken socialite who gave up Nancy for adoption. James is determined that neither child will inherit his estate upon his death. Meanwhile, a convoy of new age travellers has arrived in Shenstead Valley and laid claim to a patch of unregistered land. Led by a charismatic but violent and dangerous man known as Fox Evil, they turn the land into a fortress and enrage the local people. Fox Evil knows an awful lot about the places and people of Shenstead Valley, and clearly has his own personal agenda for the invasion. As the story unfolds, all are dragged into the world of James Lockyer-Fox more deeply and complexly than they bargained for. And the reader is on a roller-coaster of a journey with more twists and turns than Alton Towers? Nemesis. The Writing: Minette Walters is totally bac
k on form with Fox Evil. Those who were fans of her pre Acid Row works, in which she investigated the human psyche and the capacity for wrongdoing with intelligence and style, will not be disappointed. Every character in this novel is believable and every situation in which they find themselves rings true within the context of the story. The writing itself is skilful and elegant, and tension is employed to great effect making the book a real page-turner. I will give none of the plot away, but will say that the climax is certainly worth waiting for and knots up all loose ends perfectly, making Fox Evil a very satisfying read indeed. Recommendation: Anyone who turned their back on Walters after Acid Row can return to her books safe in the knowledge that she is once more at her best. Fox Evil is an intelligent, pacy, complex book that you race through as you are dying to know the end, but regret getting there when you do as it was such a damn good read you want it to go on and on. Very highly recommended. Jacket price £6.99