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Member since: 14.04.2010

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      02.10.2010 02:42
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      A great piece of music.

      Karl Jenkins has effortless achieved one of the greatest feats of modern classical music - he has developed a huge listening audience without diminishing the character or quality of his music or pandering to the popular mindset.

      Jenkins' "The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace" was inspired by the musical masses of the 15th and 16th Century. Many such pieces of music were actually based on popular secular songs of the age and one such particularly well-known piece was "L'Homme Arme", which contained the lyric "the armed man must be feared". Jenkins, who was writing at the time of the bloody conflict in Kosovo, felt these words had great relevance for our age and mankind generally, and set about writing a Mass for Peace. The beauty of this work is that it is both an incredible piece of music and an insightful commentary of the human condition.

      Although called a Mass For Peace, this piece of music is actually more about war and its aweful effects, The first part of the Mass has a military feel, with the beat of drums echoing ominously in the background, as the choir begins to sing the foreboding theme. The menacing Sanctus, leads the audience to the inevitable outbreak of war. Trumpets herald the beginning of a conflagration and with it uncontrolled destruction and chaos. The next section mourns the dead, remembering that one death is one too many. It is beautiful and poignant, expressing fear, sorrow and guilt. The Benedictus tries to heal the wounds with faith in God and mankind, and leads to the uplifting crescendo, but the terrible threat of war is never far away, a point Jenkins goes to effort to underscore.

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      02.10.2010 02:02
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      A decent read, but may be a bit too 'intelligent'

      The Glass Room is a historical novel, set in pre-war Czechoslovakia. Rich in symbolism, it is a novel of ideas, primary of which seem to be the concept of social decline and moral decay. The Glass room excellently balances metaphor with a strong plot, characterised by almost dreamlike narratives. It is a compelling read, but somewhat daunting in places.

      The "glass room" is a house designed and built in 1929 for Viktor and Liesel Landauer, wealthy newlyweds. The young Jewish couple are on the cusp of a long future together and have cemented their destiny by ordering the construction of a dream home, which is situated in a fictional city in Czechoslovakia. The house is both a house within the novel and the framework of the novel itself. For it is within the house that all the narrative interactions and plot twists occur and it is the language of the house's architecture, which is used to tell the story. This is the story of a house and its occupants, rather than a story about the occupants of a house.

      In the initial stages of the book, the house, which has been designed in the sleek and stark modernist style, represents the ambitions, confidence and optimism of a peaceful future in Europe. It is rational and reasonable, having no use for the flare and fancy of other forms of architecture. The Glass Room is a happy home for the Landauers throughout the 1930s, but as the close of the decade draws near, the couple remain blissfully unaware of the gigantic changes that are about to unfold, changing their lives forever and with them, the nature of their beloved home.

      Once vacated by the Laudauers, The Glass House takes on many different occupants and serves an array of different purposes. It becomes a Nazi biometric research facility, a Communist clinic for children with polio and finally a museum. Each time the building changes hands, the tone and feeling of The Glass Room changes with it, allowing the novel to explore a selection of different ideas, all framed within the structure of the house and couched in the language of its architecture.

      The Glass Room is a complex book. It seeks to contextualise historical change within one building and in doing so, both loses and gains something. Too much seems to be hung on the architecture of The Glass Room, making the narrative feel a bit restricted, but at the same stroke, the approach is innovative and stimulating.

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      02.10.2010 00:14
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      A good place to go with friends.

      The Escape Club! That takes me back to Brighton's golden years. Of course, it's not been called the Escape Club for quite sometime, having changed its name to Audio about 4 or 5 years a go. The club, which is situated on Madeira Drive on Brighton seafront (opposite the Brighton Pier) is one of Brighton's best loved DJ and live act venues. Having played host to a startling array of big names over the past few years, including MGMT, Ellie Goulding, Friendly Fires, Kate Nash and many many more, this 200+ capacity venue has firmly established itself as an essential part of Brighton's live music scene.

      Audio (formerly The Escape Club) is home to some of Brighton's most happening club nights, including Club NME and Supercharged, a dirty drum n' bass fueled mash-up , which draws attendees from around the country and has seen the likes of Pendulum, Chase and Status, DJ Marky and many more take to the decks.

      The majority of events at Audio are 18+, though many of the live shows are 16+. The staff are friendly, but the doormen can be overbearing. The drinks are cheap or expensive, depending which night you go. I recommend tuesday or wednesday night, if you are looking for a good, cheap night out in Brighton. The club tends to stay open until about 3.00am and the upstairs bar is open during the day.

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    • Newsnight / TV Programme / 30 Readings / 29 Ratings
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      20.04.2010 00:59
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      This justifies the license fee alone.

      Newsnight is BBC 2's late night news review. The program was launched in 1980 and has established itself as one of the nation's leading current affairs shows. Newsnight airs nationally on weekday nights and runs between 10.30pm and 11.20pm. Original presenter, Jeremy Paxman has become the face of Newsnight, though other presenters have also enjoyed long stints with the show, most notably Kirsty Walk. The program delivers in-depth reviews and analysis of major issues, as well as offering a platform for intense interviews, in which politicans and spokespeople can expect 'gloves off' treatment.

      In my opinion Newsnight goes someway to single-handedly justifying the BBC license fee. The quality and depth of the news and analysis offered is rivalled only by Channel 4 News and a few radio broadcasts. In an age when news is being increasingly 'dumbed down' and reduced to sound bites and terror stories, Newsnight stands up for intelligent discussion and accountability. It significantly resists the forces of spin and pointless editorial attempts to make serious news 'entertaining'.

      One of the greatest pleasures of Newsnight is watching the unwitting 'stumble into the Paxman thunderdome' in the words of Charlie Brooker. The now famous broadcast of Paxman refusing to let Michael Howard wriggle out of a hard question has been used time and time again to illustrate just how slippery politicians can be. Newsnight is a very decent program, which does not patronize its audience and does not accept sanitized and convenient versions of the truth. Democracy is safe provided we have the likes of Newsnight.

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        19.04.2010 19:10
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        Brilliant and highly recommended.

        Charlie Brooker's Newswipe was the last in a series of satirical review programs bought to you by the king of UK media deconstruction. Fans of Brooker will already be aware of the Gameswipe and Screenwipe series, which poked expert fun at the media establishment. Newswipe carries on this venerable tradition, but opts to focus on recent news stories and particularly, how they have interacted with and influenced politics and society. Don't be put off if following the news isn't your thing. Brooker adeptly balances (and offsets) factual content with comedic presentation and funny sketches.

        So far, viewers have enjoyed two series of Newswipes. The first was aired in the UK on BBC Four in March 2009 and the second began in January 2010 on the same channel. The episodes are approximately 30 minutes long and are presented by Brooker on a set that is mocked up to look like a serious news program. Each episode deals with 4 or 5 contentious news stories and also features vignettes from counterculture comedians, such as Tim Kay and Doug Stanhope, as well as appearances from the likes of Adam Curtis (The Power of Nightmares).

        Newswipes raises some startling facts and Brooker makes some very incisive and revealing observations. For example, his comparison of American news programs with British news is astonishing and really needs to be seen to be believed. Brooker's presentation is relaxed and entertaining and unlike some other satirists, he does not patronise or preach to the viewer. He is hugely self-deprecating in places and certainly doesn't take himself too seriously, which only adds to his endearing character. I would highly recommend Newswipe to anyone.

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      • Dead Set / TV Programme / 18 Readings / 18 Ratings
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        19.04.2010 01:01
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        A great television show, recommended to fans of the genre.

        Dead Set is a light-hearted Zombie drama, created by Charlie Brooker, the UK's king of satirical counterculture (Gameswipe, Newswipe, Screenwipe, etc). The program was made for television and ran in parts, but it also fits very well together as one long film, with the narrative being a continuum from one episode to the next.

        The plot entails the early stages of an outbreak of a zombie epidemic. Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff have all been affected, but the authorities are unsure what is causing the problem and put it down to civil unrest and rioting. Meanwhile, in London life continues as normal, despite the news reports speaking of a massive wave of violence spreading across the country.

        Big Brother is in full swing and it is eviction night. The crowds and crew are gathering at the Big Brother House and the atmosphere in the editing suite is frantic. Patrick, the producer is terrified that the show will get 'bumped' for the news, but pushes on regardless. The eviction show proceeds and the crowds grow bigger and bigger, totally unaware of an imminent threat, but not for long. Soon the infected are amongst the crowd. When the Big Brother contestants, safely locked in their alternate reality, hear the blood curdling screams coming from outside, they assume it's because this has been a particularly lively eviction show.

        I love watching this program and bought the DVD box set afterwards. There are some great scenes involving Davina and former members of the BB House, both as humans and as zombies. Patrick, the Producer, played by Andy Nyman, is a great character, with some really funny dialogue and put-downs. I particularly like the fact that the show's creator, Charlie Brooker, opted to make the two strongest characters both women. Kelly, the studio asistant, takes control of the situation and refuses to go down without a fight. Claire, who features as part of a side narrative, is skilled at survival and rescues one of the programs lead male characters.

        This is a brilliant television program and I would recommend it to anyone. As well as providing a very nice zombie drama, the program makers make a very astute comment on the nature of Big Brother by making the crux of the story about the contestant's fight to stay inside the BB House and not become an anonymous face amongst the mass of zombies that gather outside.

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        • Quarantine (DVD) / DVD / 21 Readings / 21 Ratings
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          18.04.2010 17:08
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          Well worth watching, but don't expect a masterpiece of horror.

          Quarantine is a horror movie directed by John E. Dowdle (The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Full Moon Rising). This film offers a variation on zombie horror, akin to the plot of 28 Days Later. Rather than featuring true zombies, the victims are infected with a highly contagious disease that causes them to become aggressive and attack other people.

          The film is shot like The Blair Witch Project. The camera is held by one of the film's characters, a camera man, who is following a group of firemen on an emergency call. The film begins at a fire station. A female news reporter has come to observe the work of the firemen. The initial stages of the film take place at the fire station and the dialogue is filled with predictable bravado and sexual innuendo. Soon the fire crew are called to an emergency at an apartment building and the news team doesn't miss its opportunity of filming the guys in action. On arrival, the nature of the emergency isn't apparent; nor is the considerable danger each person has put themselves in by entering the building. As the terrible truth becomes more and more apparent, the situation inside the apartment block becomes increasingly desperate and the news team and fire crew are forced to take drastic measures to save themselves, with the odds heavily stacked against them.

          The film contains a lot of gore and violence and therefore I am really surprised that this film should be rated as suitable for children of 12 years or over. Personally, I think that there are some scenes that are not suitable for anyone under the age of 18. It is possible that I watched a different, unedited version, but there are gory scenes, involving the infected attacking the non-infected throughout the film, plus a lot of blood.

          This film is good, but it didn't hold my attention that well. The film doesn't have much plot development and I found the final outcome a little bit predictable. The choice of dealing with a small and isolated incident rather than a bigger national or regional apocalypse, was an interesting take on this genre. The film deals exclusively with developments inside a single infected apartment building. It focuses on the residents and reactions of the authorities to the residents and in doing so is quite unique. Overall, I would say that this isn't a great film, but it is a good film. It is definitely worth checking out, but it is no masterpiece of horror.

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            18.04.2010 00:45
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            A great and educational day out for nearly everyone.

            London Dungeon is set in a particularly inauspicious area, housed in the arches of London Bridge station. This is not a part of London that has a thriving tourist buzz. Rather, it is quite a plain, unattractive area. I have visited the London Dungeon five times in the past, the latest being October 2009 for Halloween. I have enjoyed the experience on each occasion.

            The London Dungeon offers a combination of wax works, mocked-up historical settings and actors guiding you through London's gruesome past. Focusing heavily on the darker side of the capitals history, this attraction is not suitable for very young children, who might be scared by the depictions of torture and cruelty. Live actors bring the stories of Jack Ripper and the Great Fire to life and the dungeon includes a log-flume style ride, which transports visitors through London's past. The staff are enthusiastic in their roles and significantly contribute to the experience.

            One of the significant downsides of London Dungeon is the very long queues to enter the attraction. I was visiting with friends and we had purchased our tickets in advance, yet we still had to wait approximately 2 hours to get into the attraction. The queueing is inconvenient and takes place on the street. There are members of staff, who will steward the crowd, but the queuing situation is quite bleak. If you need to use the toilet, you will need to ask the permission of steward to let you into the attraction or nip off to the paid-entry toilets in London Bridge Station.

            Despite the queuing I would still recommend this attraction to anyone who is interested in the capital's past and who doesn't have a weak stomach. Also, don't go if you have a phobia of rats.

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            18.04.2010 00:18
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            A great attraction for young and old.

            Alton Towers is one of the grandaddies of British theme parks and is the second most visited theme park in the UK. In my opinion, Alton Towers offers the best overall them park experience in Britain, rivaled only by its sister park, Chessington World of Adventures. I have visited Alton Towers about 6 or 7 times in the course of my life, the last time being October 2009 for Halloween.

            Alton Towers is a family oriented theme park, but generally offers something for everyone. It is well presented and a lot of thought has been put into the appearance of the grounds and the overall experience. If visiting by car, you'll arrive at Alton Towers having negotiated your way along narrow winding roads, which girdle the Staffordshire hills, driving through countless tiny villages.

            The car parking facilities are sufficient and user friendly and a monorail provides easy access to the front gates of the Theme Park. Entry is easiest if you have booked ahead. Expect to queue for sometime if you need to purchase tickets on arrival.

            The theme park is situated in the historic grounds of Alton Towers, a 15th Century hunting lodge for the Earls of Shrewsbury. The park grounds still contain the ruins of Alton Towers, though the current building dates from the early 19th Century. The park also boasts the historic landscaped gardens of Charles Talbot (15th Earl of Shrewsbury) complete with ornate pagodas, Victorian hot houses and many statues. These gardens were once renowned as the most spectacular gardens in Britain.

            Alton Towers has an open and relaxed feeling. When you first enter the park, you get an amazing panoramic view of the estate and its vast artificial pleasure lake. The park has a Disney-esque main street, which is vibrant and sets a fun tone.

            The park has some fantastic rides and the mix offers something for everyone. The park is split into 10 different zones. In my opinion, the best rides are found in The Forbidden Valley and X Sector, including classic roller coaster rides, Oblivion, Nemesis and Air. Newer rides like Rita and Sonic Spinball are also worth checking out in their respective zones. If you are looking for something more sedate or something for the kids, try Mutiny Bay, a pirate themed activity area, or Cloud Cuckoo Land, which hosts the new Charlie and The Chocolate Factory ride and simulator.

            Alton Towers is truly unique and quintessentially British. What I particularly love about the park is the clever way it integrates the historic surroundings of the grade-two listed estate, complete with gothic tower and vast landscaped gardens, with the modern attractions. Indeed, some of the attractions, such as Hex, actually take place inside the tower and rely heavily on the castle's historical narrative for their own plot lines.

            In my opinion there are two significant downsides to Alton Towers. The first is the amount of walking required to get around the park. Visitors do have the option of using the monorail or the rather precarious looking cable car, but these are not always convenient. If you are mobility impaired or you have small toddlers, navigating the park in full may be a challenge. The other significant downside is the quality of the restaurants. Expect to eat nothing but fast food during your visit.

            Alton Towers offers a very complete theme park experience and does the job well. As well as the theme park itself, the resort includes two hotels, a water park and a few other fun attractions, like a crazy golf course. Clearly, a huge amount of effort is put into special occasions, like Halloween. I would definitely recommend attending at that time of year, so you can experience the park's excellent 'live zombie' walk through attractions. I would recommend Alton Towers to anyone.

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            17.04.2010 22:27
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            A great experience for all ages.

            I have stayed at The Alton Towers Hotel a few times, twice with a group of friends and once with my family. I last booked into the hotel in October 2009, during a Halloween tour of UK theme parks and attractions.

            Alton Towers Hotel is Alton Tower's original theme hotel. You can get rooms suitable for families, groups of friends and even 'sleep-over' rooms for large groups of kids. The venue has great wheelchair access and generally seems suitable for most people, whatever their circumstances or needs. Aside from the standard rooms, there are theme rooms, which cost a lot extra, but offer a fairly unique experience.

            Each time I have stayed, I have opted for a standard room and shared with one other person. The rooms have always been a very satisfactory. They are clean and light, with televisions, tea and coffee making facilities and a bathroom which includes a nice, large bath and power shower. The beds are a little uncomfortable, but bearable.

            The hotel has some great touches and facilities. The hotel building looks impressive from the outside. There is an impressive water feature near the entrance, as well as a well-presented car park, which allows for easy arrival. The check-in service is quick and efficient.

            The hotel has one bar that stays open until around 12. If you are a night owl and want to stay up later, you can make the short walk over to Splash Landings (without going outside) and use their 24 hour bar. The biggest disappointment with The Alton Towers Hotel was the quality of the food at the hotel's restaurant, as well as a very poor standard of service from the waiting and booking staff. The food is edible, but it is a long way from gastronomy.

            Clearly a lot of thought has been put into the general appearance of the premises and this shows. The hotel has a fun feeling and some impressive features, such a the haunted lift and a large 'hot air balloon' statue standing in the middle of a magnificent stairwell. The gardens are large and well kept, with a large terrace for a nightcap or early coffee. There are fun things to keep the kids occupied, including a video games arcade and a number of games in the gardens. The hotel often plays host to entertainers, ranging from cabaret singers to magicians.

            One of the greatest pleasures of staying at this hotel is the exclusive woodland walk entrance to the theme park. As well as getting tickets as part of your booking package, you are entitled to use the secret woodland entrance, which will put you at the heart of the theme park within 20 minutes. This also makes returning to the hotel during the day very convenient. As well as this, there are other benefits, such as the convenient proximity of the Alton Towers crazy golf course.

            As I mentioned, I last stayed at Halloween and when I arrived, the hotel was fully dressed for the occasion, complete with dozens of pumpkins, a boiling cauldron, cobwebs and staff dressed at vampires and zombies. The guests at the hotel also received exclusive access to a halloween 'walk through' attraction, staged in the grounds. This was an impressive and enjoyable experience, that was well worth the very long queue.

            The quality of my last visit to the Alton Towers Hotel was significantly damaged by the hotel's decision to put me and my friend in a room that was next to one of the hotel's themed Karaoke party rooms. This room was filled with young teenaged girls (may be ten 13 year olds). The room had an adjoining door to our room, so clearly our room was intended for the parents or guardians of the children. This door was actually unlocked when we arrived and one of the next door girls walked straight through into our room. It is questionable as to how appropriate it was for the hotel's management to put a group of young girls in a room like this, when the room connected was occupied by strangers. It is also questionable as to how they could choose to host unconnected parties in the room, who would be expecting a good night's rest, but end up listening to Karaoke into the small hours of the morning in a poorly soundproofed room.

            When we complained to the hotel management, we were offered a 10% discount. We declined this and asked to be moved to a different room instead. At this point the manager became quite abusive and told us he was withdrawing his offer of the 10% discount. He was generally rude and seemed very unconcerned that we had spent nearly £300 on a room that we couldn't use properly. He explained that the hotel did not give a guarantee that customers would be able to sleep in the rooms they book, which seems a very odd reply. The following morning we were informed that we could move rooms, which we did.

            On the whole, I would continue to recommend the Alton Towers Hotel to anyone. The experience of staying at the hotel is amazing and uplifting. I would recommend you request a quiet room in advance though and don't get too excited about your evening meal if you are eating at their restaurant.

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            17.04.2010 20:01
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            A very pleasant water park, which is well worth a visit.

            Carriba Creek is Alton Towers' indoor, heated water park. It's located under the Splash Landings / Alton Towers Hotel complex and can be accessed from both relatively easily (though the directions from the Alton Towers Hotel can be a little confusing).

            Carriba Creek is the perfect water park for young families, but will be less appealing to serious water park junkies, especially if you have experienced any of the big American water parks. The water park doesn't really have much to it. It has three substantive attractions and some peripheral features, such as water falls, jets, an outside swimming pool and a water-based climbing frame. The main attractions consist of two water flumes and the 'lazy river'.

            My favorite of the two flumes is The Master Blaster Water Coaster, a water flume which requires its users to sit in a large rubber ring. You have to be over a certain height to use this slide and it is not suitable for small children. Part of the flume entails participants shooting upwards along a rising stretch of the ride. The participants are pushed along by water jets, which is an innovative and unusual experience (ie sliding up a water slide). I have to say, that although I am a big fan of this water slide, the queuing is excessive and I twice fell out of my ring and hit my head on the way to the bottom.

            The other water flume is a lot more tame in comparison to The Master Blaster. Rush N Rampage is a much gentler water flume and is far more suitable for young children. Kids can choose to enjoy this ride on their own or in a double seater rubber ring with parents.

            The Lazy River is also very suitable for children and is a lot of fun for adults as well. Participants sit in a rubber ring and enjoy being swept along a stretch of indoors river, complete with water falls, tipping stations and jets. The water park also has a large jacuzzi style 'bubble pool', a shallow bathing area for babies and toddlers and an outdoors swimming area and slide (which has always been closed when I have attended).

            There are a lot of great touches, which make this a really fun place for children especially. The Wacky Water Works Treehouse is a climbing frame style attraction (very safe), which includes integrated water cannons and pistols, which can be fired by the kids. The Tipping Bucket is a nice touch. It is an enormous bucket, holding 1,000 liters of water that turns over and empties on those below when a bell sounds.

            Carriba Creek has a lot going for it and I would recommend a visit if you are staying at one of the Alton Towers hotels. The changing areas are clean, the staff are friendly and polite and the atmosphere is very uplifting and fun.

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              17.04.2010 19:10
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              Like a rotten Disney.

              In October last year, a group of friends and I decided to make a trip to Thorpe Park, as part of a Halloween Tour of a few different theme parks and attractions. I hadn't visited Thorpe Park since I was a child, so wasn't really sure what to expect. I had memories of quite a subdued place, for families and kids.

              We were visiting Thorpe Park primarily because they had a number of 'walk through' horror attractions, involving dark rooms and actors playing zombies. Our tickets cost a lot of money and we had a certain expectation about what we would get in return.

              I cannot overstate just how disappointing and unpleasant Thorpe Park was. The tone was set by the massive presence of angry looking security guards dressed in 'stab proof' vests. When I enquired as to why there was so much security, I was told it was because there was always violence at the park. In fact, I did a lot of chatting to the staff, most of whom were either totally disinterested or downright rude. One actually used casual expletives (non-aggressively) when they answered my question.

              The queues for the rides were excessive and the special halloween attractions kept breaking down for hours. I was stuck in a queue for a broken down ride for at least 2 hours. No one was willing to say what was wrong. In the end, it transpired that the rides weren't worth the wait anyway. For the functioning rides, you could 'fast track' your way to the front of each queue, something we opted for, and something that cost us an additional £80 each in total. It seems a shame that Thorpe Park is happy to see those customers with less money walk away having had a significantly worse experience than wealthier customers.

              The food was truly disgusting. I had a hot chocolate that was no more than warm brown water and the restaurant we eat at had no clean forks. When we asked what they could do about that, we were told to walk to a different restaurant and ask to borrow a fork from them.

              Thorpe Park is very bad value for money. The owners need to put some serious thought into managing the overall experience, rather than merely thinking of new income streams. If my review isn't enough to put you off, go check it out for yourself, but remember to take your stab proof vest.

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                16.04.2010 21:04
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                A collection of classic tracks from an icon of the 1930s

                I became interested in the music of Gracie Fields a few months a go after watching a BBC documentary. I should mention that the Music Hall stars of the 1920s and 1930s aren't naturally to my taste. I find it particularly rewarding to step outside of my comfort zone and find something new I really like. This is exactly what happened when I listened to 'Our Gracie - The Best of Gracie Fields'.

                This album is packed with classic Gracie Fields tracks from the 1930s and 1940s, including several that became anthems for the Allies during the Second World War. The album opens with 'Sally' (Gracie's Request Record), Gracie Fields' most celebrated and loved song. Performed by Fields many thousands of times, her haunting yet uplifting vocal coupled with innocent, endearing lyrics, captured the imagination of an entire generation and set Fields on her way to become one of the highest paid women in the world.

                Gracie Fields' appeal was often said to derive from her common touch and natural ability to connect with people. This was reflected in her music. Sing As You Go, for example, is a cheerful song about a group of factory workers celebrating the reopening of their factory (and the restoration of their employment).

                During the Second World War, Field was one of Britain's most significant fundraisers. She raised so much money for Churchill, Hitler and The Nazi Party deemed her a weapon of war and an enemy of the Reich and placed a significant bounty on her head. Fields toured all the major areas of conflict to boost the morale of the Allied troops. It is unfortunate that her marriage to an Italian National caused her to become the victim of press vilification and briefly the target of public hatred.

                What I particularly love about this album is the considerable variation of styles, from serious singing demonstrating an enviable vocal range, to comedic singing, designed to raise a laugh and a smile, Fields seems to be able to provide something for everyone and in doing so, sets the foundations for countless future British bands and artists.

                Gracie Fields is quintessentially British and her songs reveal some of the best traits of that nation's people. The Biggest Aspidistra In the World, for example, offers a very light-hearted and unshaken response to a very serious, significant and imminent threat. It is a nonsense song about growing an enormous plant, which becomes so big it causes the defeat of Hitler and the Nazis.

                Listening to this album will connect you with a passed era and may be help you understand your older relatives a little better too. Personally, I have found listening to this album very rewarding and enriching and would recommend it to anyone.

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                  16.04.2010 17:32
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                  A tale of one man's quest for redemption.

                  It is the 1930s and the Catholic Church is facing its biggest challenge since the Reformation. Across the globe, the custodians of the 'old order' are being toppled like dominoes and socialist, totalitarian regimes are being established in their place. A clash of ideologies of monumental proportions is about to unfurl.

                  Mexico during the 1930s is a prime example of the unrest that came to characterize this era. It is here that Graham Greene chooses to set his finest exploration of personal faith. A vibrant and colourful world of contrast is presented to the reader; a place where ideologies, history and civilizations clash and where even the forces of nature seem to be continually unsettled.

                  The Power and The Glory is the story of a priest who is in search of refuge and redemption. Desperate to evade the Revolutionary forces, he is also driven by a deep desire to meet his daughter. Whilst continually reproaching himself for past deeds and weaknesses, he exhibits a courage and fortitude that other priests have lacked. The novel adeptly deals with a mass of contradictions, presented via the individual, but having wider application to the Catholic Church itself. 'What makes some good or bad' is the central question addressed by Greene.

                  This book is expertly and excellently written and is by no means a heavy read, despite the heavyweight issues Greene deals with. In common with all Greene's work, The Power and The Glory uses rich and vivid language and imagery to create a world the reader can visualize and even feel. Filled with interesting plot developments and twists, the novel takes the reader of a fantastic journey, which you will be sorry to see end. I highly recommend this book.

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                  16.04.2010 02:35
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                  An excellent read.

                  Our Man in Havana is one of my favourite Graham Greene novels. Set in Cuba during the rule of Batista. Wormold, a hapless British vacuum cleaner salesman and doting father, is looking for a way to increase his income and provide the lifestyle his young daughter desires. He meets a recruitment agent for the British Secret Service, who offers him work as a spy, which he finds it difficult to refuse.

                  Wormold is no spy, so instead of engaging in espionage, he opts to invent a fantasy world, involving a network of fictitious agents and imaginary weapons installations, based on sketches of vacuum parts. His paymasters in London are very happy with his work, with the exception of Hawthorne, the man who recruited him, who has suspicions regarding the authenticity of the information. Nonetheless, Wormold's position as the British intelligence service's 'man in Havana' is secure. He is provided with a secretary, Beatrice, and continues to provide fake intelligence.

                  However, the plot takes a bizarre twist when reality begins to mirror Wormold's world of lies. He realises he is no longer in control of circumstances and gradually gets sucked into real world espionage. Wormold is forced to take drastic measures to protect himself, his daughter and his secretary, who becomes his emotional companion and eventually his lover. He manages to obtain some genuine intelligence, which he sends back to London, but ironically, it is indecipherable and cannot be used. As the real world of spying comes ever closer to Wormold, his situation becomes increasingly desperate.

                  This is an enthralling novel, with rich textured language and vivid description. It is the story of one man's attempt to improve his life through extraordinary means, discovering personal resources and abilities he never knew he possessed. The novel highlights the destructive power of disinformation, underscoring the impossibility of deciphering truth from myth in the world of shadows that existed in the cold war era. It provides a clever combination of highly contrasting worlds - the domestic, nurturing home of Wormold and the murky world of espionage. Excellently written, this novel is highly recommended.

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