- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
Ok I'd like to think that I'm normally fairly sedate when writing reviews and try my best to balance the pros of a product with any cons and visa versa but this review of BT will more than likely turn into a full blown rant for which I apologise in advance!
Back in October 2010 I ordered BT Broadband from BT through the internet at work, as I had no internet or phone line at home. The offer was good in all fairness - it was fairly cheap and I was happy to go with BT after naively thinking that if it could ignite the relationship of that couple on its adverts then they would be able to handle a mere installation of a phone line and internet for me.
After completing the order and receiving an online receipt of all my details, I was told that an installer would come out to install the line on a friday morning, but that the nearest date they could come was over four weeks away. While I thought this was slightly strange given the size and resources of BT I relented and took a morning off work to wait for the engineer to visit. When the morning came I waited around until it was obvious no engineer was going to turn up...
All in all very annoying! A wasted day out of the office. Rubbish!
Do you ever find it frustrating that you have so many sources of news and information open to you that you don't know where to start!? Now that news is beamed to us through multiple channels (tv, internet, text message, radio etc), and done so throughout the day and night, I often find that it seems only a few hours between one story ends and another begins. I also tend to distrust a lot of what is being reported, as I either don't feel the source is reliable (i.e. if its told to me in a blog or twitter) or because the source may be biased and wants to promote a particular agenda.
The Week solves all these problems. I first bought it after being offered 6 free issues on a trial and have now been subscribing to them for just over £20 every 13 weeks (which apparently saves me over 30% on the cover price of £2.75 for each issue). With the subscription, the magazine comes straight to my door and has never been late. On opening its pages, you'll soon see the difference between The Week and other magazines - it basically consists of all the leading stories that have broken around the world in the past seven days, and reports these stories by selecting articles from different publications and different areas of the world, so as to ensure its coverage is both impartial and from the most relevant source.
The Week's format also allows for many different news stories to be covered while ensuring there is enough detail on each to tell you the key facts and opinions of those that matter (for example, its 'main stories' have two paragraphs stating 'what happened', two paragraphs stating 'what the editorials said', two paragraphs stating 'what the commentators said' and a quick paragraph telling you 'whats next'). And this, in a world where we're often overburdened with information, is both refreshing and, to be honest, all you really need to know in many cases (The Economist or the Times for example has inevitably more information and analysis on a story than this magazine can offer, but while I am a devotee of both I often find because of the level of detail, I've forgotten much of what I've read about a story ten minutes after I've read their article!
Thematically, The Week covers the main stories first, then looks to events around the world, then selects its 5 or 6 'best articles' from the world's media (a section I really like) before covering issues from the worlds of sport, science, the arts, people, property and business, and basically everything else you could possibly think of, while doing this in less than 40 pages. If this seems as if it can't be done, I agree it seems implausible as I shared the same scepticism at first, but I promise once you've read your first issue, you'll see that not only can it be done, but it can be done without sacrificing the quality of its coverage.
For those who may be interested in working at the UN in the future, I thought I may write a brief summary of how I found the experience, firstly working at the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force ("CTITF") in New York between June and August 2009, and for the Terrorism Prevention Branch in Vienna between September and November of the same year!
From my first steps through the doors of New York's famous UN Headquarters, I knew that I was about to embark on an experience that two years before I would scarcely have imagined, and one that I would never forget. It all started with the choice to study a LLM in Public International Law; a course which gave me the confidence to subsequently apply for the UN's summer internship programme, by completing a 'Personal History Profile' on its website and passing a telephone interview with my potential department, the CTITF.
During the internship, my responsibilities ranged from reporting on progress made by the UN's counter-terrorism initiatives, to helping organise the Secretary-General's trip to the Arctic, and that years high level conference on Climate Change. Along the way I got to meet other like-minded colleagues and interns from all over the world; attended meetings, conferences and the Permanent Missions of many of the UN's Member States, and met both the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Assistant Secretary General, Dr Robert Orr.
So what in a nutshell did I learn from my experience? Firstly, ignore those who tell you that it is too difficult to get into the UN. With enough determination such 'advice' can be safely ignored. Secondly, knowledge of a second language is definitely an advantage, but not a prerequisite to a career in international law. Thirdly, establishing contacts are everything, so never turn down work or an opportunity to socialise with fellow interns and colleagues. The contacts gained in New York helped me for example obtain a subsequent internship in Vienna with the UN's Terrorism Prevention Branch, thus adding yet more vital experience to my CV. And finally, a cliché I know, but enjoy every minute of any internship you may do; the chance for me to play my own small part in the UN's work, while enjoying all that New York and Vienna had to offer, was, and will always remain, a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
If you have any other questions about my experiences please just let me know and I'll do my best to answer them!
After graduating from Sheffield with a BA in Politics, I returned to Sheffield to study an MA in law. While my parents at the time both put their head in their hands at the thought of their son returning to yet more years of study(!) I knew it was the right choice for me and my decision was vindicated by the quality of the teaching and facilities on offer:
While unfortunately situated on top of a massive hill (and so testing your already limited willpower to attend an early morning lecture after a night out), the department has all the facilities that you expect and need to study law. It boasts a very good library stocked with a wide range of legal materials, from statute books to the latest legal magazines; computer rooms with quick internet access and flexible opening hours; and seminar rooms that are spacious, light and equipped with modern teaching equipment.
All the lecturers and the seminar leaders were absolutely brilliant, being both very knowledgeable and very approachable. When I started my MA I was really concerned about my ability to get a training contract and which sector of the law I should work in, and I soon found that I could knock on any of the lecturer's doors and ask any naive questions. Like all courses, the MA was taught on a modular basis, delivered through weekly seminars and lectures; with exams held at the start of the spring term and at the end of the summer term. The only recommendation I would make, now I have the benefit of hindsight, is that perhaps there should have been more emphasis on giving presentations and mooting, as I think if more students were forced to do these early on then they'd be more comfortable when they have to start doing them in a work situation in front of clients.
The course itself
As I had already studied Politics for my undergrad course, I had to convert to law in order to qualify for the LPC (the course all potential lawyers have to complete before starting a training contract). I considered the traditional one year conversion course (known as the "GDL") but chose to study the MA, an alternative two-year course only offered by Sheffield, and which also gave direct entry onto the LPC or BVC. I felt the course would give me a broader knowledge of the law (as the course covered a much wider range of legal subjects than the traditional GDL) and a greater opportunity to work part time to help fund the course (though this was also of good value costing only £3000 for the two years).
As I said, the course is spread over two years and is therefore slightly less intensive than other conversion courses, and I therfore also worked part time and still managed to have a life outside of my studies. The work expected was however definitely a big step up from my undergraduate degree but this was largely due to the quantity rather than its difficulty, and I also found the methodology for structuring legal questions and answering them very different from anything I had done before. The course also requires a lot of reading so it does help to try and be organised.
I'm aware that there are probably loads of other questions that I haven't answered within this review, and so please feel free to ask me any others you may have and I'll try and answer them as best I can!
My weekly intake of cider has increased substantially since falling under the spell of the Magners advertising campaigns (you know the ones - good looking people in the country lazing around together in picture perfect orchards etc etc), but while I enjoy the odd pint of Magners, I still find it can be a bit heavy on both the palate and the stomach, and its fizziness can often make me stop wanting to eat or doing anything remotely active immediately afterwards.
I was then introduced to Kopparberg Pear Cider by a friend, and despite grumbling by its price (which can be upwards of £4.50/£5.00 in central london), I soon found it a genuinely refreshing alternative to Magners. Of course, as it is a perry it is very sweet, but despite this I find that it doesn't become sickly after a couple of bottles (unlike other sweet drinks such as Crabbies or Smirnoff Ice), and I find it a perfect accompaniment to food, as, like Corona, its lack of real fizz means that you don't get bloated by the product. Another cider very similar to Kopparberg is St Helier, which is similar in taste, though the former appears to be better stocked in bars.
I have read other reviews that suggest that Kopparberg may not be for beer drinkers but I tend to disagree as while I enjoy beer and its still almost always my first choice when I go for a pint, I think Kopparberg is brilliant for lunch-time drinking, for the summer, and for when you're planning to eat after your tipple!
Yep, I've also joined the Crabbie's bandwagon after my curiosity got the better of me a few months ago when I first saw it behind the bar. Like another review that I have read recently on Crabbie's, I was also never a big ginger beer fan as my tastebuds always just found the whole concept a little bewildering. With Crabbies however they've made the whole experience more enjoyable, not only of course due to the fact that its alcoholic (though at 4% its not overly strong), but also because I think they've overcome the 'bitterness' of ordinary ginger beer by making the alcoholic version a whole lot sweeter.
I can imagine that Crabbie's main rivals are Magners and Kopparberg. This is because they follow the same format (pouring the drink in a pint full of ice), and the same marketing strategy (best for when its really hot and you want a refreshing drink in the sun), and I must confess that after a few pints of ordinary lager I also find myself choosing between Kopparberg (a smoother alternative to Magners I find) and Crabbies; and yes I also unashamedly ask for loads of ice and slice of lime in the glass regardless of the weather outside!
While I find if I have more than two or three Crabbies in one session it starts to get a little sickly sweet, all in all I have found this a great addition to the drinks cabinet and very popular with both boys and girls...
I am an avid coffee drinker and while my preference is always to use ground coffee (with Taylors of Harrogate my first choice), sometimes theres just not enough time to go through the palava of using the coffee machine, and I therefore always have Gold Blend in my cupboard for such emergencies! I was initially sceptical of instant coffee as my prior experience with instant is that they are terribly bitter, leaving a horrible aftertaste in your mouth, and have a remarkable ability of absorbing any saliva I once had in my mouth so I'm left gasping for a soft drink.
Nescafe Gold Blend has however proven to be an exception however - it has a very mild but distinctive flavour, and it is also a very smooth coffee - I don't feel with Gold Blend that its dehydrating me as I drink, nor do I wish I had access to chewing gum or water immediately after drinking it (a sensation often experienced if i'm stuck in a hotel and have only Nescafe original sachets to hand). When treating myself I often put two teaspoons of the powder in a mug of milk, heat up the milk in the microwave and have my own latte - its incredible!
With regards to price, at around £5.00 I think its pretty good value, and the packaging makes it a distinctive addition to the other coffee brands on the shelves. As a personal opinion I do wish Nescafe would try and source more of their products through fairtrade, though there is the Nescafe Partners Blend coffee that is so certified, though I have not tried this blend as yet.
I have used tesco.com on several occasions and all in all the service very much has had its good points and its bad points:
1) Very flexible delivery times (up until 11.00pm), and though at peak times this can be quite expensive (up to £4.95), this must be weighed against the costs of actually driving to the store and the time involved in picking the food by yourself, queuing, carrying bags to and from the car etc.
2) Friendly service. The deliveries have always come on time and the staff have always been friendly and helpful. Because I live in a block of flats, I often ask them to help me carry the crates to my flat and they have always agreed to with humour and grace!
3) A very accessible website. Once I had chosen my products for the first time on the site, I have found it easy to repeat my shopping, largely because I am a man of habit and choose nearly the same food products every time (and so opt to view my 'last shopping order' and take it from there). When I do want to choose something else however, it is very easy to do, with a good search option, and there is the wealth of choice that you would expect from a congomerate such as Tesco. I also always find the 'special offer' section of the website very helpful.
1) I often find that I receive 'substituted products', where they haven't had my chosen product in stock. While the substitute is often very close to something I asked for, its often the case that the chosen product was on special offer and so you miss out on a 'two for one' opportunity and end up paying more than you bargained for. Always therefore check the receipt and refuse to accept the substituted product if necessary.
2) Order anything with a limited expiry date with caution! I often find things like salad a treacherous gamble as I often find I have about 5 hours to eat it before it goes off. I don't know why Tesco don't learn from this as it shouts out at the online customer that you are 'second-best' to those who actually go and visit the store, which given you're paying the same for each product, isn't on.
3) Make sure you buy the product you actually wanted! You sometimes find that you buy a product which you never would have chosen when in-store! Many a time, I have found that I have bought an unber-tiny carton of milk or packet of cheese, and so its important that you double check that the product you buy fits the description of what you wanted.
Given what i've said then it all depends on whether you think the pros outweigh the cons, and for me I often find it does, particularly as I now live in central london and with no car I would struggle to buy in bulk.
I have used Vision Express as the provider for both my glasses and my contact lenses for over two years now without any complaints. For my glasses, I was offered two pairs for the price of one; of which one pair could be bought from within their 'designer range'. The glasses on offer were of a wide range and variety, and as a person whose not entirely comfortable trying on, let alone wearing glasses (I don't own sunglasses for this reason), I found the staff really helpful and gave me the confidence to choose two frames which I would never have chosen without their enthusiasm and support.
For contact lenses provision, I am a member of their direct debit scheme, where, for £12 a month I get my contact lenses sent to me every four months by post. I find this really useful as often, due to working commitments, I would find it hard to go and physically pick up my lenses from the store. Along with the lenses, I get four bottles of contact lens solution and two spare contact lens holders, and so I never have an excuse not to use new solution or clean lens' holders. When I do visit the store, the contact lens department is housed in a separate section from its main spectacles department, which is on the whole beneficial as you get to skip the queue of those waiting for eye tests etc. I did however find it frustrating on a couple of occasions on sundays, as the contact lens department would be closed and so despite the store being open, there was nobody to help me with specific lens' enquiries.
Another admirable aspect to Vision Express is that when on their direct debit scheme, when it comes to the time for you to have your annual eye test/vision check-up, they will refuse to send out your next batch of contact lenses until you have had them done. I think this is a responsible move by the store, as I know that otherwise I, among others, would be tempted to put off having such tests done, when in reality they are very important, particularly if you are using glasses/contacts for driving etc (I have had to have my lens' strength increased three times since I first started wearing them).
All in all, I have been really impressed with Vision Express and its customer service is, and always has been, excellent and I would highly recommend this store to anyone.
The leading brand in the energy drinks department, its hard not to go to any shop without seeing the product or its advertising, but does it really 'give you wings'!? Well, I must confess I was originally rather sceptical about Red Bull, as I feel i'd rather make a cup or tea or coffee then go out and buy a heavily branded product for more than twice the price. I do however feel there are times, where a can of red bull justifies its marketing campaigns, particularly in those situations where a kettle is not at hand:
1) When I do exercise. Along with lucozade, when I'm in the middle of a long tennis/squash match, or during a long gym session, I few swigs of red bull at regular intervals gives me a bit of a 'pick-up'. One should always drink water as well on these occasions, as water remains the best hydrator.
2) During a late night studying session. If I am trying to revise for exams, I prefer to have a can of red bull late at night as it helps me concentrate and focus on what I'm trying to learn, and I prefer Red Bull to using Pro Plus as I find the latter gives me a massive surge of energy but then gives me quite a big come-down a short period after.
3) As an alcoholic mixer. If i've been out for a few hours and starting to lag a little, red-bull and vodka is the perfect tonic. The only downside to this of course is the price (as vodka red bull is often very expensive in bars). The solution to this however is to make sure you, rather than the barman, does the mixing, as then you can buy a few single vodkas and use the same can of red bull as a mixer for each! Theres also the recent trend of jagerbombs (where you drop a shot glass of jagermeister into a half pint of red bull and then drink in one) which probably however isn't recommended for a work night!
Now Lucozade's a strange one I find. Its the kind of drink that I would hardly ever walk into a shop in the middle of the day and purchase, and on the rare occasions that I have I have found the taste rather sickly to be brutally honest. However, whenever I do any exercise or sports (which is fairly frequently) and I step out of the gym or the football pitch, the first drink I'll always buy is Lucozade Sport, and it always goes down an absolute treat. Now, this could be because Lucozade is present in almost every vending machine in every sporting facility across the country and so easily accessible, or I could just be heavily influenced by the advertising associated with the product, or it could also be because it really does what it says on the tin - it is the perfect drink for sports.
Lucozade contains electolytes and carbohydrate fluid to help rehydrate the body, which is especially important for high endurance activities such as running or football. It is also much easier to drink after activity than other soft drinks (carbonated drinks being particularly inappropriate in this area), and while other competitors are starting to enter this market, it remains the best known product. Some words of warning though - it also contains a lot of sugar and sweetener - so even if you are doing a lot of exercise try and mix it up a bit by alternating lucozade with water (still the best hydrator on this planet despite its lack of taste!). It'll be good for the old wallet too!
I'm afraid this review will, for many people, seem a rather shallow one, as I, like many students out there, will forever remember sambuca as either the shot to have at two in the morning when you've had enough beer and you want to start hugging people, or at the start of an evening when you want to liven up a rather dull party/night out. For me, its the perfect shot - its better than the other favoured shot option tequila because I find you have to be in the right mood for the latter - sometimes it goes down well, other times it doesnt, and its better than those other ridiculous drinks that have recently come out such as Corkys, which basically I find tastes quite nice but don't really do very much!
There is of course one proviso to Sambuca, you have to like aniseed! If you don't you'll find sambuca pretty hard to keep down, or, given its fairly pungent aroma, even hard to go near! I however like aniseed, and am also impartial to the other aniseed based drink Pernod, so Sambuca's perfect for me. Of course another alternative that has become more common is black sambuca, but I find that quite heavy and still prefer the cleaner, fresher taste of ordinary sambuca...
I know this review probably doesn't reflect Sambuca's rich arabian traditions but I hope its realistic in the eyes of many!
I have found this a great addition to the beverage aisle of most supermarkets, and as it has become more common, I have also found that you can get some good discounts on the price of multipacks of Corona (Tesco for example are currently doing a £4.00 for 4 bottles deal). It is mild and pleasant, tasting quite 'hoppy' but without the strong aftertaste and alcohol content of other exported lagers.
It is also a perfect accompaniment to meals, as it doesn't bloat you and isn't too fizzy, but the best time to drink it I find is when its hot and you want a thirst-quencher in the middle of the day to drink until the sun goes down. Of course the fall back to this is that given that it is so easy to drink, and comes only in small (but perfectly crafted!) bottles; if you're in a pub at the time, you find yourself buying quite a few rounds, which can be quite expensive given the often large disparity between its relatively high price in bars to that in supermarkets.
I've also found that my girlfirend finds Corona a good alternative to wine or other more heavier lagers - though she is also likes to put a piece of lemon or lime in the bottle to make it sweeter/more citrusy.
All in all, a great choice for afternoon drinking, though would be great if its price in bars started to reflect its price in supermarkets...
I find myself wondering to myself why I feel the need to review Pepsi (after also reviewing Coca Cola only moments before) but it seems a review of one leads to comparing the other so here goes! To keep this short and snappy, here are my main points:
Packaging: Not the greatest fan of plastic bottles, the drink becomes warm quickly, and if you walk around with it, it soon becomes flat. Glass bottles are much better, though I see its disadvantages in terms of breakage, chances of it being recycled, and inability to place in vending machines.
Taste: Like coca cola, it can taste quite sickly (particularly for some reason in the morning) and has a habit of sticking to your teeth and staining them. However, I always used to choose Pepsi over coke when I could due to the lemon flavour in pepsi, which I found made the drink more refreshing and less sweet in taste.
Health: As we all know pepsi is not particularly flat chest or teeth friendly, with each serving containing a lot of sugar and calories, but unfortunately the only other alternative is diet pepsi which in my mind (like all diet drinks) is pretty pointless as given that it doesn't taste of anything, you may as well just give up pepsi and go for water/squash if you're calorie conscious.
Accessibility: Due to its market dominance, you can however get pepsi anywhere, and you always know what you're going to get with it! Due to its fizziness I don't drink pepsi on its own now, but I still find pepsi, like coke or lemonade, is a necessity when it comes to mixers - which is why you'll never go to a house party without seeing a few bottles laying around!
Thirst quenching? I play a lot of sports and would never drink pepsi after exercise as it only seems to bloat you rather than quench your thirst. If I was to drink pepsi as a last resort I would have to shake it up to make it flat beforehand. Lucozade remains the answer in this aspect.
First things first - its clear that Coca Cola is one of the success stories of the modern era, lending itself along with the likes of McDonalds and Starbucks as the cultural icon for today's capitalist tastes and fashions. While slightly disconcerting to see such products gracing the billboards of modern sporting venues, I have no particular objection to this success, principally because coca cola does taste pretty good. I used to drink coke all the time (largely because i'm not a big fan of water), but now I've had to move on to cordials as I find my stomach can't handle the fizziness and gets really bloated. If you have the same issues as me then I would avoid all carbonated drinks (which I know is fairly difficult). When I did drink coke though I found the cans better than the bottles as you could chill them better in the fridge. I also never saw the argument that bottles of coke were better as then you could save some for later, as the remaining coke would often just become warm, flat and pretty horrible to drink.
In terms of packaging, of course I see why plastic is used due to its reluctance to break and the ease in which they can be used in vending machines, but the one time I still allow myself a coke is as a mixer or abroad, in central or south america, where they still have the glass bottles - coke, like so many drinks, tastes so much better when coming from a glass bottle. Other slight quibbles I've had with coke is that I used to find myself quite lethargic after a coke and the product used to stick to my teeth. I also question just how thirst quenching coke is - a pint of squash I find more fulfilling then a coke, particularly when you also think of the calories involved with the latter!
And as to the age-old question, coke or pepsi!? Pespi every time for me! Why!? Read my review to find out!