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spoilt_little_br

spoilt_little_br
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Member since: 10.06.2002

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    • First Choice / Travel Agent / 18 Readings / 14 Ratings
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      24.09.2009 15:12
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      Brilliant for holiday's, crap for wedding's

      When it comes to holidays my Husband and I like to go for cheap and cheerful; our typical holiday for the past 10 years would cost under £500, be in the EU and fully self catering. We had never booked a holiday with First Choice before as I prefer to search the Internet and find the cheapest deals myself, cutting out the shop assistants commission.

      I first entered the First Choice in Rotherham while looking for a wedding destination for my then Fiance and I; as soon as I walked in I was impressed by the store, the main desks were set out as though they were in a large ship, then had a waiting area made to look like an old 60's dinner with a duke box and refreshments. More importantly for me they also had a small child's play area with cars, jigsaws and other toys to keep the children entertained throughout the long drawn out process of purchasing a holiday.

      After waiting for roughly ten minutes to be seen by a representative I was greeted by a lovely woman who sat me down and talked me through what type of holiday I was after. I didn't make life easy for her, I knew I wanted somewhere special that I had never been before that would look fabulous in my wedding pictures, that would stick within our wedding budget of £5,000 and could accommodate a child who at the time was under two. The obvious choice was the Caribbean and the main two places that stood out for me at that time were the Dominican Republic and Cuba. I made it very clear that I would need to go home and research the countries and talk it through with my Fiance, the assistant was fully understanding of this and in no way rushed me knowing she would not get a sale that day, in fact she wrote her contact details and shift times down for me so we could go back and deal with her again.

      The brochure that I was given in store was a huge help in deciding what destination to pick, at the front on the brochure it was broken down into countries letting you easily flick through the pages to read about you're chosen destination. The first few pages on every destination showed a map of the country, gave some brief history to the country, the temperature and rain fall every month and listed activities that you may be interested in. Once past the fact and figures you are displayed with the hotels on offer around each country, each in given it's own 'Sun Rating' which really made no sense to me as there was no information on what they were basing this rating on; I also found while on our holiday that we were in a four sun hotel and there was a five sun hotel right next to it, however our hotel was by far better and people from the other hotel were always coming over to ours to have a look around.

      The other brochure that we were given was for the wedding, In this brochure we were told about the resorts that held weddings and renewal of vows and what the wedding packages would include. Most of the resorts offered the same things, private check in, free room upgrade, flowers, private meal the night before and night of the wedding, wedding cake, breakfast in bed, champagne, and all this normally costs an extra £500 and obviously also includes the cost of the registrar and legal documents. One of the main problems we came across when looking for the wedding destination was finding somewhere that would allow such a young child as most of the long haul destinations seemed to be adult only.

      BOOKING

      After spending all night looking through the brochures together, my fiance and I decided on Cuba and went to the Rotherham First Choice again to speak to the same lady I had dealt with before. She was incredibly professional and built a great rapport with us making sure we were happy with every little detail regarding the holiday and wedding.

      We were given two days to pick for the wedding day and were told this would be confirmed to us when we met our wedding planner, looking back this was pointless as we didn't really care what day we would get married and we didn't get married on one of the days we chose anyway!

      The price of the holiday along with the wedding package at this point came to just over £3,000 and that also included £100 for two weeks holiday insurance. When we booked the holiday we had 16 months to wait before the actual holiday but everything had to be paid in full three months before we would travel, which unluckily for us landed on Boxing day. We paid a £300 deposit at the point of booking and then tended to go into the store every few weeks to pay a bit off at a time.

      A few months after we had booked the holiday my fiance and I were discussing what hell it would be flying for 10 hours with a 19 month old child and decided that we thought it would be impossible to keep him seated on our lap for that length of time. The next day I went back into the Rotherham store and enquired about the price of buying a seat for our son, they said it would cost an extra £480, which we gladly paid.

      While I was slightly angry that the price of our holiday had dramatically risen I knew we had made the right decision and would be thankful for our child having their own seat.

      After booking the wedding we were sent a wedding pack through the post, which included a list of legal requirements we would need to send to them to get a wedding licence; we quickly sent off all the information they asked for and never questioned anything further as we were told we would have a call from the weddings department two months before the holiday. After we never heard anything from the weddings department up to 6 weeks before we departed we again went into the Rotherham branch to make sure everything was OK and they had all the paper work required; we were told that my fiances birth certificate was causing some problem as his surname was spelt wrong, something we had never realised and had never been an issue before. We did as they said and went to our local registry office and bought a new birth certificate and were reassured everything was now in order.

      While I was pleased the issue with the legal paper work was sorted I couldn't help but feel let down by the weddings department, they had had 14 months to contact us about this and get it sorted and yet they left it for us to chase them up. This unfortunately was only the beginning of my issues with the weddings department and every time I had a question for them they seemed incapable of answering me and always resulted in them needing to call me back. I am almost certain that as a bride-to-be I was not the only person to ever feel the need to call and ask them a nagging question, for example if I could take my dress on as hand luggage or how much the photographer would cost- which they never could answer and said it varied from each resort.


      CHECKING IN

      By the time the holiday was upon us I had almost lost all faith in First Choice as a weddings provider but was overcome with a mixture of emotions and tried my hardest to relax and enjoy the holiday. We were flying from Manchester airport and were instantly greatest by a huge line of people wanting to check in with First Choice. Now this came as a shock to me as we were there three hours before our departure and I had timed everything down to the T, I then found out that we were not in a queue for our Cuba flight but for First Choice holidays in general. This must have been one of the worst spectacles I have ever seen, my son was getting angry as we were just waiting in a line that wasn't moving, and I was getting frustrated with my son and worried we would be late.

      Finally we got to the front of check in and was greeted by a woman who can only be described as a jobs worth. We had three suitcases, one of which was weighing in over the normal 20KG allowance, but we were given an extra 10KG of allowance due to the wedding and had to produce evidence of this, which I expected. Next we were asked how old my son was and why he had his own seat as she didn't think this was allowed. I think it's fair enough to say that after spending almost £500 on a seat for my son I was less then impressed with their attitude when in the end all it took was a nod from a supervisor to give the approval.

      After checking our bags in we made ourselves upstairs to the passport control area where I was thrilled to finally see a bit of VIP treatment as were were ushered to the front of the queue (I do think this was more to do with having a baby then anything else).

      My next big complaint was aimed directly at First Choice weddings, as we reached the departure lounge for our flight I counted at least another five women all with wedding dresses to take onto the hold. I cornered one of the women and asked her how she managed to get her dress this far to which I was told 'I didn't take no for an answer'. I thought this was grossly unfair, I was told on more then one occasion that it was strictly against policy to take the dress into the hold and as a result my huge dress had to be folded into a suitcase.

      THE FLIGHTS

      The airplane looked immaculate to me and we were flying in 'Star Class' which I believe comes as standard with long haul flights, included in this we all sat together, were given a meal and had the option of games, films and radio as in flight entertainment. The films available were very good and new releases which I enjoyed watching when my son was sleeping, but mostly enjoyed playing the games as you could play against other passengers which was a lot of fun on the return flight as we knew a lot of the people we were playing.

      The food and service is one area where I was less then impressed again While the food was fine for my fiance and I, I was expecting (and had paid for) a child's meal for my son and thought it totally unrealistic for them to think he would eat what they were presenting us and also found it disappointing that they didn't bring around something for the children such as crayons like I have seen on other flights.

      The service on the flight from the cabin crew was very few and far between, they never seemed to answer the service bell and I waited almost an hour just for them to bring my son a pillow so he could sleep. Maybe this is standard to long haul flights but the presence of someone bringing drinks every so often would not have gone amiss. If we were to fly with First Choice again I might contemplate upgrading to Premium Star Class for an extra £199 per person just for the better service, more selection of the TV (although you can upgrade to this for £10 per person in Star Class), free drinks and a more relaxed environment.

      THE HOLIDAY REPS

      As soon as we had collected our bags in Cuba we were greeted by a Cuban First Choice rep who showed us to our coach. She was only a young lady and somewhat reminded me of an over excited Butlins red coat. Some of the other passengers were finding any excuse to moan about things and I thought she dealt with them fantastically and more or less told them to be quiet and enjoy the sights of Cuba.

      When we arrived at our resort I was more then impressed, it was a fantastic location and it really was like living in the true lap of luxury. We were advised there would be a meeting with our First Choice rep, which we attended to see what trips they had available. While we were happy to listen to the local information and be given some tips on things like finding the best cigars, the trips that were being offered were extortionate and I didn't see anyone sign up for any trips. That was the last I saw of our rep despite her claims she would be there every day; we didn't need her for anything as it turns out but it would have been nice to see someone there representing First Choice.

      OVERALL/ CUSTOMER SERVICE

      Without a shadow of a doubt the holiday to Cuba was the best holiday of my life, a fantastic resort and the staff at the hotel and our wedding planner (who are not employed by First Choice) were superb, I could not fault them in anyway and it was most certainly value for money at roughly £3500.

      However, everything that was right with the holiday had nothing to do with First Choice and more the Sol Melia resort we stayed in. As I said previously I had lost all faith in First Choice before we had even been on our holiday but after spending two weeks in the most beautiful country to unwind, (almost) everything was forgiven and my plan to complain was scrapped- till six months later.

      It was six months ago since we were in Cuba and having our beautiful wedding, but unfortunately six months later and I am still constantly having to ring First Choice and complain. When we first booked the wedding we were made well aware that it can take up to six months to receive the wedding certificate, but told that Cuba tends to be quite quick at issuing them. A few weeks before we flew there was an issue of Watchdog on TV that was all about First Choice wedding's and how they were in some cases taking two years to produce wedding certificates but were assured time and time again that this was a very isolated case at the resort they had the issue with was no longer in partnership with First Choice weddings.

      When at the resort we were told by our wedding planner and the First Choice rep to expect up to three months wait for the certificate, after three months I called the weddings department who said they were wrong and it can take 6 months. Feeling the need to chase this I began calling First Choice weddings every three weeks to ask for an update on my missing certificate only to be constantly told it's on it's way and infact on one occasion was told it had been received at the resort and would be sent via DHL within a matter of days, something I now learn to be untrue.

      It seems that the weddings department are completely incapable of being straight with me regarding time scales or where my wedding certificate is, I have recently been told two different time scales one of 9 months and one of 12. Feeling the need to catch First Choice out I looked in their new brochure only to find they have changed the wording to 'we can't confirm how long it will take' but on calling the weddings sales line posing as a bride-to-be was told again that it's a 3-6 months time scale.

      As much as I loved my wedding and my holiday and had the best customer service at the initial stages of my relationship with First Choice, they have seriously let me down now with their lack of care or compassion.

      If they got their act together with the customer service issues mentioned then I would have no issue with using this company again.

      www.firstchoice.co.uk

      SLB

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      • More +
        16.07.2009 14:47
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        The worst service provider ever

        July the 19th 2006 and I am sat in a hotel lobby in London waiting for a glass of wine and to be checked into my room. I think it's fair to say I wasn't in the best of moods and my phone rings; the young man on the phone tells me he is calling on behalf of the '3' network and has some offers to interest me in. Feeling irritated at receiving a sales call I lay it down to them exactly what phone I want (the newest Sony Ericsson at the time) and that I won't pay over £30 a month for that service. Amazingly enough they agreed and two days later I was the owner of a new phone and contract with what I would now believe to be the worst service provider I have ever come into contact with.

        Who are 3?

        Hutchinson 3 were founded in 2002 and are a brand of Hutchinson Whampoa (who are also on the BCUK dirty list for contributions towards the Burmese military for those interested). The main selling point for 3 is that they don't just sell phones, they are selling a product that will allow their customers to access a strong and fast Internet connection and make high quality video calls. They also pride themselves on offering customers HSDPA (High-Speed Down-link Packet Access) although this can be accessed on other networks.

        Possibly something of a contradiction, but 3 also like to pride themselves on their clear pricing for the service they offer. They believe that many companies have too many hidden charges and have recently joined the cause at cutting call costs to other networks and landlines. It is worth mentioning that 3 have not cut their call charges to help fight towards this campaign, no, they simply suggest you use their Skype service.

        The Handsets

        Quite obviously with 3's mission statement about wanting to offer the best mobile Internet solutions, all the phones they have on offer are very much geared towards the Skype service, messenger and the Internet.

        I would say the phones they have on offer are mostly bland and show a very small amount of what is on the market for a decent handset. There is only one Blackberry on offer, and there is an obvious lack of Nokia's, most notably being the 5800 but yet they have chose to stick with the disastrous N series and still advertise the N95 and N96.

        When I first took out my 3 contract in 2006 I was still quite naive when it came to mobiles, I wanted a phone that looked good, played music and had a good battery life. I found that with my Sony Ericsson and never had a single complaint about the handset.

        When it came to renewing my contract I was working for O2 and so had every intention of using my staff discount and leaving 3. However they gave me what I thought was a reasonable offer of £25 a month for 500 mix minutes and texts and had in stock the new Nokia N95. I should add at the time the handset had been on sale less then 3 months so there were no real reviews on what the handset was like, but I liked Nokia's and believed in the hype that this phone was going to be superb and exactly what I needed.

        Here is where my first problem came with 3.....

        Customer Service

        For my first 18 month contract I never once contacted 3, everything worked as it should and I had no need to question the service they were offering. Two months into my new contract with my Nokia N95 and things started going wrong, the phone would freeze for no reason and switch itself off and on at any given time. Working for a mobile phone company I knew by now that there was a very serious fault with the N series handsets and did what I tell my own customers and try wiping the chip on the Sim card, try the Sim in another handset to see if you have the same problem and do a software update. Nothing worked and I was still left with a faulty handset.

        I decided to call 3 customer services and query their returns process before making the trek to my nearest 3 store. It became clear instantly that the call centre was not in the UK, but the man I spoke to was polite and I fully understood what he was saying to me. He told me to do all that I had done before but after explaining I had done this I was told to go in store and take my handset back for repair.

        The staff in store were fantastic, very friendly and gave me a loan phone while mine was sent for repair. I was told my handset would be returned in 3 working days, which I believe to be a huge selling point. 3 days later my phone came back and was declared 'fixed' although there was no note to say what had been the problem, but I guess they just did yet another software update.

        To cut a long story short, my phone was returned another 3 times for the exact same fault within the space of a month, when finally 3 replaced my handset with a refurbished N95, which I was happy with until a week after using that handset it had the exact same problems- only worse. After calling the customer service number and complaining again, I was offered a door step delivery, which meant they would pick up my handset and return it to me when fixed.

        Two short days after the courier collected my handset I had a phone call from the returns department to tell me there was nothing wrong with my handset and that there was nothing more they would do for me. It was obvious I had hit a brick wall and again proceeded to call customer services; the woman I spoke to was less then helpful just repeating all the previous advice I was given and not taking my complaint seriously, which resulted in her releasing the call on me with no prior warning. I called a further 3 times that evening and was finally promised a manger call back within the next 24 hours.

        24 hours passed and I still hadn't received a manager call so I called customer services again, and after being put on hold for 40 minutes was passed to manager who told me I needed to do another software update, regardless of the the fact I had the latest software on my handset already. He said that he would call me again in 24 hours to see if I had the same problem. Funnily enough that call never came and I decided to write a letter of complaint to their head office.

        A week after sending my letter of complaint I received a call to say that they were willing to offer me a Sony Ericsson W880i as a free replacement. I was extremely angry at this offer as my contract states they must replace the handset for a model of the same value of more, it's fair to say the W880i is far inferior phone to the N95. Again I spoke to 3 managers, all who were unwilling to help and seemed incapable of differing from the script they are trained to read to customers, so I asked for a deadlock letter to give to Otelo and was refused.

        After 12 weeks of sitting with a faulty phone and still not getting anywhere, I called Otelo who helped me draft a letter to the Head Office in Glasgow. After 4 weeks waiting for a reply I was called by another helpful lady who offered me a free months line rental and a free N95 8GB. I was thrilled to finally get somewhere and didn't have a single problem with my handset from that point onwards.

        Canceling the Contract

        A month before my contract ended and I started getting disruptions with my service and decided to take a new contract with O2 and finally make use of my staff discount. I was more then aware of disconnection fees and was willing to pay these with my final bill, at this point I would have paid anything to leave the company.

        On calling the disconnections department and asking for a PAC code to transfer my number to another provider I met yet another barrier. Apparently I was in breech of my contract to transfer my number and had to either upgrade or see out the remaining month of the contract with them, something I know to be totally untrue. It would be naive to expect not to have been offered any type of upgrade offer, after all what type of a company likes to loose business? But after continuously telling the sales representative that I already have a new phone and contract with a staff discount they could never beat, I kept being bombarded with offers. After an hour of arguing (again!) that they could not beat my new contract and could in no way offer me anything that would ever tempt me to stay with 3 for another eighteen months, I was granted my PAC code.

        I was told that my termination fees would total roughly £8 as I had paid my line rental a month in advance. Happy in the knowledge I would have no nasty phone bills or ever have to deal with 3 again, I transferred my number to O2.

        Two months later and I find myself with a bill through the post from 3 for £28 in termination fees. I instantly call them to argue my case but am told time and time again that I owe this money, with no word of why or what dates they are charging me between. I politely asked for a detailed copy of this bill to be sent to me which states the dates I am paying for, when I am informed they also took a direct debit from me the previous month.

        I asked for the call to be listened back to as the customer service advisor was incapable of giving me the correct advice (even telling me I made a call from my 3 Sim card two days ago?!). Again after an hour spent arguing my case I was granted my wish for the call to be listened to and to receive a call from a manager within 48 hours. I didn't hold high hopes at all of receiving this manager call, and after 72 hours of waiting I call to be told there are no notes on my account to back up my story that I requested this manager call and that a manager would not deal with my complaint and to just write in.

        Conclusion

        Without a shadow of a doubt 3 are the worst company I have ever had dealings with. It's my job to deal with customer complaints on a daily basis and find it incredible that a company with such low customer service values can stay in business.

        Be it due to a language barrier or lack of training, but the customer service staff only seem to be able to read from a script and my problems always arose once I differed from this script and asked questions of them that they found impossible to answer. I have felt ashamed of myself so many times calling this company, having to raise my voice as they continue to talk over me and not listen, and be the general type of customer I despise just to have my voice heard.

        The retail staff have always been more then happy to help, they understand and sympathise with the difficulties customers have on the phone to customer services and have always tried their best to help me.

        The tariffs always seem appealing as they seem so plain with no hidden charges. However in my experience with a low price you can expect low expectations. For £25 a month I was only given a mix of 500 minutes and texts, which is no longer compatible in today's market, I was refused the option to change tariff and I ended up having to pay an extra £5 a month just for some decent Internet allowance.

        Coverage in my area is poor, despite the fact according to 3's web map showing I am in a strong 3G reception. The mobile Internet would constantly cut off or take ages to load and calls would appear with the message 'disconnected' due to loosing reception, a problem I have never had with any other phone or network provider.

        Overall I would encourage people to avoid this company like the plague, regardless of the intriguing offers they appear to have.

        SLB

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        • Morning Sickness / Parenting Issue / 61 Readings / 56 Ratings
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          02.12.2006 15:22
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          The down side of being pregnant

          When you first find out your pregnant it can be the best day of your life. Finding out that weeks and months of rushing home just to make sure you are 'at it' when ovulating are finally over and you and your partner can have a rest! You start looking through the calendar to find out how far gone you are and work out how big your baby will be.

          It can all be very exciting, if not toaly confusing, your brain will be overloaded with information and questions of what is going on in your body. However my bubble was soon burst when I got my first taste of 'Morning Sickness' as it is so inaccurately dubbed. Whoever decided to trick women globally by putting the word 'Morning' into the equation deserves shooting, as most pregnant women will soon learn that your body does not have a magical clock that turns off the feelings of nausea at 12pm. No infact it is very common to have pregnancy sickness in the evening, night, mid-day or infact all-day.

          My first experience of morning sickness was when I was six weeks pregnant, although some women start having sickness as soon as 4 weeks pregnant. I started to feel slightly sick, but as I didn't know I was pregnant I put it down to being tired, eating something bad or a sign of my period coming. It wasn't until I was half way through my 6th week when I woke to the most horrible feeling ever. My stomach felt empty, like I hadn't eaten for day's and the feeling of hunger was making me feel incredibly sick. My mouth had a disgusting dry taste like I had been chewing on metal over night and soon enough I was dashing to the toilet and looking at what I had eaten the night before!

          Normally if I feel sick and am sick I usually feel better, but not this time! The feeling that I was going to be sick would not budge and I constantly felt like I was going to pass out. I dashed down to the supermarket to get something to eat and my boyfriend demanded I bought a pregnancy test. Of course it was positive and I was delighted, but soon after cracking open the champagne (or orange juice for me!) I was dashing for the toilet again!

          The Next day I woke up to the same feeling of emptiness and that same metallic taste in my mouth. I rushed to the toilet to be sick and felt so overcome with dizziness that I was unable to go into work. Around 4:30pm the feelings of sickness went and I was able to carry on like normal, making tea and enjoying my evening. The next morning I woke up to a slight feeling of nausea but for the next two weeks I wasn't sick once, I just felt a constant need to be sick.

          I felt so happy as I thought I had beaten the sickness and that I would be one of the lucky women who didn't have to deal with morning sickness. But how wrong I was!

          When I got to around 8 weeks the funny metallic taste returned and I woke up every morning at 5:30am to the same empty feeling. It was mainly the metallic taste that would set off my sickness as not even drinking or brushing my teeth would help. I felt so ill constantly and even though I didn't want to tell people I was pregnant they could guess as I looked like crap and was always being sick. It made me quite depressed as my sickness was taking over my life; I couldn't work most days meaning I was losing money and had only just started my new job the week before I found out I was pregnant, I couldn't eat which meant I was always faint and dizzy, I couldn't leave the house for the fear of being sick but the final straw came a week before my birthday when I was meant to be going out with my boyfriends family to celebrate and I couldn't stop crying about the thought of having to leave the house and be in public.

          As soon as the weekend was over I was packed off to my doctor who could see how ill I had become and gave me some tablets. They are tablets you can buy over the counter, which are for motion sickness, but you MUST ask your doctor or midwife before taking these as they can in some small cases cause problems during your pregnancy if you take them very early on; and it is important to remember that sickness is all part of being pregnant and filling your body with tablets which get sent straight to your baby is not always the answer, only in really bad cases will they give you tablets.

          But before you go to the doctors here are a few tips I have picked up to try and stop or ease the pain of pregnancy sickness:

          Rich Tea Biscuits:

          I now have a constant supply of biscuits in my house, my car, my locker at work, my best friends house, and my handbag. My mum told me to nibble on these through the day and they will stop you from being sick. They do seem to work, although I soon got bored of plain biscuits and upgraded to a naughty chocolate version!

          Eat Small And Eat Often:

          Forget your three meals a day, first thing to realise when you are pregnant is that you DON'T have to eat for two, you only need to increase your calorie intake by a small amount although your midwife and doctor will talk you through this. However when you are pregnant you may find you feel hungry more often and feeling hungry will in turn make you feel sick. To combat this eat small amounts through the day, I tend to snack on my biscuits and apples (stay clear of bananas, they cause constipation during pregnancy for most women). I also have found that I cannot eat big meals anymore, I get full very quickly so snacking on fruit helps.

          Eat Before You Go To Bed:

          Before I go to bed I have started to eat an apple or a few cheese biscuits (stay clear of soft cheese and mouldy cheese like stilton) as I then avoid the feeling of being woken up by feeling hungry, I also know then that if I am sick when I wake up I will have something in my stomach to bring up, avoiding just retching.

          Stay Clear Of Strong Smells:

          Sorry to say this but that means wearing purfume. I couldn't wear perfume until I reached 10 weeks and the sickness started to wear off. I also couldn't go anywhere near my boyfriend after he put on his aftershave. Just explain to your partner that you have an increased sense of smell and could he put on his aftershave when he gets in the car, or at work.

          Cooking is another area where you may start to feel sick (unfortunately my boyfriend forgot this and started to cook kippers for his breakfast-I think next time I will aim for the bloody kippers, that will teach him!!). Get your partner to cook things that have a strong smell, like onions. Make sure you empty the trash regularly to avoid lingering smells and make sure things like cat litter trays are well ventilated or emptied daily. As a pregnant woman you should not empty litter trays unless wearing gloves and some sort of mask as cat waste has something toxic in it which can cause miscarriage; my boyfriend thought I was trying it on when I told him this but it should say on the back of the litter bag or can be found if searched via the internet.

          Drink Plenty Of Fluids:

          Get into the habit of having a bottle of water with you at all times, or try something like flat energy drinks. Take small sips every now and then as if you are suffering with morning sickness you will lose a lot of fluids and it is important that you dont become dehydrated. Forget your first thing in the morning cup of tea (cut out coffee and caffeine is not good for the baby) and drink a large glass of water. This is when I normally take my folic acid tablets, most of which bring on my morning sickness, but at least your body is hydrated and ready to go. Just remember that if you drink a lot before you go to bed you will more than likely have to go to the toilet in the night as pregnancy can make you need the toilet a lot more.

          Talk To Your Boss:

          Although you may not want to tell people you are pregnant you might want to talk to your boss to see if you can rearrange your working hours to when you know you wont be sick or feel sick-that is if your sickness doesn't last all day! Many companies are very helpful to their pregnant employees and will be happy to change your hours, but if you can't then just let someone know you will have to dash to the toilet now and then, if you don't want to tell your boss then tell someone who can cover for you!

          Brush Your Teeth Late:

          Yeah I know morning breath is just vile and may make you feel sick, but I now have to wait until about an hour or so after waking up before I can brush my teeth as the mint makes me sick. I tried to get a toothpaste that doesnt taste of mint or anything strong, but just the texture of toothpaste makes me sick.

          Clean Your Toilet:

          Ok may seem like a strange one but it isn't until you have your head down the toilet for hours that you realise how filthy your toilet is, and with you being sick all the time it doesn't take long for your toilet to look vile. When I first started feeling sick, just looking at my toilet made me sick and public toilets are even worse, especially if you work where I do and have to use a unisex toilet where is stinks of mens wee all the time!

          Dont Eat Fatty Foods:

          Ok this is only half true for me, although I have heard many pregnant women swear by this golden rule. Many fatty foods, fast food and chocolate/ sweets will make you sick. I however sometimes find that if I am very low on energy and feeling sick that a chocolate biscuit or kit-kat helps. I also suffer from really bad motion sickness and I always used to eat Skips or Quavers, just leave them on my tongue and eat each crisp slowly and it helped and it seems to help with my pregnancy sickness too. However McDonalds (sob, sob) makes me very sick as does (and I am devastated about this) Indian food. I was hoping that my pregnancy craving would be something from my local Indian, but no such luck.

          Dress Up And Go Out:

          Ok this may be more mind over matter but I find that staying in the house makes me worse and even worse it makes me depressed. For the first 3 weeks of my pregnancy I really let myself go. I couldn't do up my trousers or jeans as they put pressure on my belly making me sick so I just spent everyday in my Gym trousers and in baggy dull coloured tops. My dress sense really reflected how I felt-crap. It got to two days before my birthday and I didn't feel very special and I thought my 21st was going to be a disaster and I would have to go out for the night looking like a tent (maternity clothes is not up to scratch and a very angry review is sure to follow). But I got some BeneFit vouchers for my birthday (I am just in love with BeneFit consmetics) and I went and bought loads of new make-up, spent ages doing myself up and I looked and felt great. From that day I have tried to make an effort to look good and wear make-up, even if it is just to go to work in, and it makes me feel a lot better about myself. I might be ill with morning sickness but people have been having babies for millions of years and I just decided to grin and get on with it.

          Morning sickness normally stops at around three months, although mine hasn't but is has started to stop and is not half as bad now I have found ways to deal with it. Every woman is different as is every pregnancy and you will find different ways to help or control your sickness. I personally think old wives tales about peppermint tea and ginger are rubbish but they may work for other people.

          Just remember that 80% of women get pregnancy sickness, most women stop getting sick at three months. The exact reason for pregnancy sickness is not known. Some of the possible reasons put forward are the high level of the pregnancy hormone hCG in the blood in the first trimester, the rapid stretching of the uterine muscles, the relative relaxation of the muscle tissue in the digestive tract (which makes digestion less efficient), excess acid in the stomach and an enhanced sense of smell.

          Whatever the reasoning, pregnancy sickness is not pleasant and if you do become really ill consult your doctor before buying any form of pills and just remember that at the end of it all you will have something that will make it seem so much more worthwhile.

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          • Avon / Employment / 46 Readings / 37 Ratings
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            07.10.2006 18:42
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            A lot of work for not a lot in return

            The thought of getting up someday's when my alarm goes off at 5 in the morning literally used to make me sick. I just wished that I could work from home, but had no idea how to get started and the thought of giving up a job which pays really well scared the life out of me.

            However, earlier last month due to personal reasons I was forced to quit my job as Duty Manager at Lidl. For the first few days all I did was relax, spending most the day on the internet and spending a few days going to visit friends, but it wasn't long before boredom set in and I was itching to do something new. I didn't want to get a new full time job as I had my house up for sale so I thought I would try my hand at Avon to make a bit of extra money.

            Avon is the market leader in direct sales for beauty products, with an annual turnover of $8 Billion. It is also reported that there is over 5 million Avon sales representatives who market the products to over 100 countries.

            According to Avon, history tells us that in 1886 David McConnell started selling perfumes door to door in New York. At the time McConnell called his company 'The New York Perfume Company' but soon decided to change the name when he started marketing his business ideas to other countries. After visiting Stratford upon Avon in 1939, McConnell decided to change his businesses name to Avon.

            Avon have no shops worldwide, and so they rely heavily on their sales representatives to deliver their brochures into homes, social clubs, work places and to their friends and family. To me this business plan sounds far to risky as you are never guarantied to make the sales and at some point it may be that there is an area in any given country that is not being serviced by a representative.

            But in this day and age where people are shopping more from the comfort of their own home, Avon seem to have made a respected name for themselves. For me, what makes Avon more appealing as a customer is the fact that they were the first major beauty company to stand against testing products on animals. They actively support research looking for alternatives to animal testing and help fund companies in Europe and the USA that work to develop alternatives to animal testing in all fields.

            After talking to friends who are also sales representatives, I decided that I would sign up as a sales representative as the money sounded good and my managerial experience instantly kicked in, planning how I would use my time wisely and make my block of houses have the top sales in the area. My mind almost exploded with all my brilliant, if not totally naive, ideas. My family laughed as they had heard all my life changing plans before, but I was determined to give this a good go.

            And so I logged onto the Avon web page www.avon.uk.com and filled in a very simple application form, which asked the basic questions of name, address, age. I was told that I would be contacted by a sales Leader soon. I have never had a good experience of applying for jobs on line and always wondered if they do infact receive your applications; and so I was very shocked when within a few hours I received a call from an area manager asking if she could come and have a chat with me.

            The next day I had arranged for the area manager to come to my house. I was unsure about if I should dress as if this is an interview or just go for my usual ripped jeans and casual top. I had visions of this stick thin blonde with loads of make up on, much like a stepford wife, with a cheesy and fake smile which just makes you feel sick. So I decided to dress smart, flash a bit of boobs and slap on the make up.

            I sent my boyfriend out for the afternoon and started pacing the room watching the clock. Half an hour late and the doorbell went and oh my god I was glad I decided to dress up. Although all my visions of a stepford wife arriving on my doorstep were shattered, the 30 something woman was well dressed and smart with designer sunglasses on (thank god I am just as shallow and was drowning in Dior). However now I was pissed off due to her being late and I had no explanation other then her sweating all over my new carpet, which gave me the indication she had been busy.

            The woman soon got out an induction pack for me and started reading through some boring statement about what Avon do and how I could help them. There was also a very strange section where I had to tick boxes to indicate what I wanted the money for and why I wanted to work for them.

            After giving over my bank details and proof of address for a credit check she got out her lap top and started searching for areas and streets that were free in my area. I was expecting to be given my own street as I was never visited by an Avon rep, but apparently my street was taken and I was asked if I was prepared to travel a bit. I didn't mind as the area I was given was the 'posh' bit of Kettering (if there is one!) and I thought I was sure to get quite a few sales.

            And so the woman finished her cup of coffee and left saying she would come back in two weeks to see how I was doing. I was shocked to say the least. I had no idea what I was expected to do. OK the obvious is just giving out the catalogues, but all these paying in forms, order forms and other pieces of written information she gave me meant nothing. I just decided that I would do it my way!

            Straight away I set about filling in the customer order forms. You are meant to write your name/ address/ phone number/ email, but I decided just to put my name and mobile number, which I prepared on a stamp set to save me writing it over and over again! There is also a small section where you are meant to leave your customers a message to boost your sales. I started to do this, putting something really cheesy like 'Try our gorgeous new fragrance, Aura, on page X'. Well what started off as a good idea, soon started to make my wrist hurt so I just decided to leave it blank. Naughty Lisa!

            And so I was ready, with a car full of catalogues and map of Kettering, I set out to my first street. I was really embarrassed at first as it was a small close with only about 6 houses. Really posh houses with Audi's and BMW's parked outside, and I drive up in my rust bucket Ford Ka with jeans trailing on the floor and t-shirt saying something I am sure would raise a few eyebrows!

            After almost getting my hand bit off by an over excited dog I returned home. I had only delivered to half of my houses as I was only given enough catalogues to do a certain amount. I had to completely rely on the fact that people would leave the catalogs out for me so I could use them on the other houses. It is up to you how long you leave the catalogues with people, but I decided that two days would be enough as otherwise you start to get stories like 'oh sorry I lost it' or 'my dog ate it'.

            So two days later I returned. The first house I went to had left their catalogue out and had put in a order. 'Bingo' I thought! But that is where the excitement truly stopped. Out of 27 houses only 6 left out the catalogue for me and only 2 houses put in an order. I was horrified as I always left out catalogues on the days indicated and always bought from them.

            The next day I had a call from the area manager, and boy did I complain to her. I demanded that she came over and gave me some more catalogues as I had hardly none left. She pointed out to me that after you have been given your first load, you have to pay for them, and it works out at about 49p per catalogue. I then informed her that I had only been given half a box and if she didn't give me some more then I refuse to go on any further. Half an hour later and I had a delivery of new catalogues!

            And so I set out to finish of the houses I hadn't done yet, bringing my slave, I mean assistant, along with me this time, WormThatTurned. He was a total man but a brilliant help and just put catalogues through the door whilst having a fag hanging out of his mouth! A brilliant representation for the company I am sure you will agree, but by this time I really couldn't care less.

            Two days later and we both set out again to get the catalogues; I so hoped this time I would get a better reception. Hardly any houses left out their catalogues again, and I was getting tired of having to knock on peoples doors to ask for them back. Most people were nice about it, but there was one man who just shouted at me not to ever bother him again. I just smiled and said sorry, although I then had an ear bashing from Wormy who wanted me to tell him to get lost, but in not such a polite way!

            So all in all out of about 80+ houses I only ended up with 8 orders. Disgusting for the amount of time I put into it. I had to sell over £80 just to get 20% commission but in the end I got over £160 sales; mostly by selling to friends and family and getting a bit carried away myself! There is a catalogue that they hand out to reps that sell back stock goods, but you never earn commission on these items so I tend not to look in them.

            A week had passed and I was told that my delivery would come on a Thursday every month. I was given no indication of what time so I had to wait in all day. Finally at 3PM when I was sorting out the cat, making Wormy his tea and chatting to my friend about her problematic life, the doorbell went and a man in a white van pulled up and delivered my stock.

            I sorted out my invoice and set out to check that everything had arrived. Straight away I was greeted with a list of items that were out of stock and items they would send me next month. I was dreading telling my customers and thought that they should at least of sent a similar item so I could try and sell that to the customer. What made matters worse is that Avon still wanted to charge me for these items even though they hadn't sent me them yet and more then likely the customer wouldn't want them when they finally arrived.

            I was supplied with 4 bags to put the customers orders in; if I wanted anymore then I was told I would have to pay for them, so I just put them in bags I got from another company I work for. (I think some customers may have had a shock when their Avon products arrived in bags that say things like 'fantasy, hard, vibrate and pleasure' on the bag. LOL.) As I started putting things in the bags, I then found out that Avon just hadn't bothered sending me some stock and had not even listed these as out of stock on my bill. By now I was seriously pissed off and seriously held back from screaming down the phone at customer services.

            The next day Wormy and I went out to deliver the stock. I had two angry customers because they hadn't received some of their order (due to it being out of stock) and some either didn't have the money or just didn't answer the door, which means me having to keep going to their house until I get hold of them.

            All in all my experience of working as a rep has been very bad. I am going to do one more month and if things don't change then I will be quitting as it isn't worth my time and effort for what you get in return.

            I also have found that the area managers are very pushy at getting you to become a sales leader or manager. I signed up for becoming a manager and am still undergoing my training but I doubt after this experience I will finish the training. And after speaking to my manager at the other company I work for, apparently they are desperate for managers and are being really pushy with their reps.

            I wouldn't recommend Avon to anyone thinking about joining. I have heard that most people that sign up are either students or stay at home mums because they want extra cash and have more time then people who work full-time. I personally do not see how a full time mum or student would be able to find the time to do this as on average I have spent 4-5 hours on just one campaign.

            Not recommended.

            Brat

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            • Les Miserables (DVD) / DVD / 27 Readings / 26 Ratings
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              03.10.2006 18:45
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              For Les Miserables fans who love the sound track

              As in a few days time it is the 21st anniversary of Les Miserables opening in London's west end, I thought what better way to help celebrate then to write a review on the special edition DVD that was filmed in 1995 to mark its 10th anniversary.

              Ever since I went to see Les Miserables at Bristol theatre when I was about eight years old I have loved the musical. Although for a child of that age, the story was quite hard to get a grasp of, the music was just out of this world, really superb, and it has to be the first musical I have ever seen where they can involve such hard hitting issues, such as the poor and war, along side with a pinch of comedy.

              # History of Les Miserables #

              Les Miserables first opened in the Barbican Theatre, London on the 8th of October 1985 and moving to the Palace Theatre on the 4th of December. It later opened to the American audiences at the Broadway Theatre on the 12th of March 1987.

              Since opening producers Alian Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer, who wrote the lyrics, have taken their musical all over the world and picked up a stack of awards on their travells. These awards include eight Tony awards, including Best Musical.

              Les Miserables is based on the 1862 novel, written by Victor Hugo. The novel intended to be melodramatic, written with the intention of showing that men can rise above any situation and reach personal perfection. Throughout the novel it follows both Jean Valjean's and society's struggles with good and evil.

              # The Story #

              Les Miserables starts in 1815, Digne when we first meet Jean Valjean. After spending 19 years in the chain gang after being caught stealing a loaf of bread, Valjean has just been released on parole and condemned as an outcast by Javert. Stuck with nowhere to go and no money or food, it is only the caring Bishop of Digne that agrees to let Valjean stay. Returning to his past, Valjean thanks the Bishop by stealing his finest silver; however Valjean is caught and is brought back the police and is taken to trial. But in a sudden twist of fate, the Bishop tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean and with that, the police let Valjean go to start a new life.

              "Look down, look down, You'll always be a slave, Look down, look down, You're standing in your grave"

              Eight years later and Valjean has broken his parole and has changed his name to Monsieur Madeleine and living in Montreuil-Sur-Mer as a successful factory owner and the Mayor. One of his factory workers, Fantine, has a secret child and when the other workers find out, they demand that she be sacked. The foreman, whose advances she has turned down many a time, throws her onto the streets.

              Fantine, desperate for money to pay for medicine and the keep of her child, Cosette, sells her locket, her hair, and becomes a whore. Fantine feels utterly degraded by her new job and gets into a fight with a customer and gets herself arrested by Jervet, who is on the look out for Valjean. Just as Fantine is about to be taken to prison, 'The Mayor' Valjean arrives and demands Fantine be taken to hospital instead of jail.

              Javert sees instantly that the Mayor is in fact prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean, and as Valjean is promising a dying Fantine to look after her daughter Cosette, Javert arrives to arrest him, but Valjean escapes once more.

              "At the end of the day you're another day older, And that's all you can say for the life of the poor, It's a struggle, it's a war, And there's nothing that anyone's giving, One more day standing about, what is it for? One day less to be living."

              In Montfermeil Fantines young daughter, Cosette, has been living with the Thenardier family for the past five years. The family, who own a run down Inn, make Cosette work as a slave for them while they indulge there own daughter, Eponine. Valjean finds Cosette fetching water in the woods at night and he pays off the Thernardiers to let him take Cosette away. Valjean takes Cosette to Paris, but he still has Javert closely behind him.

              "There is a castle on a cloud, I like to go there in my sleep, Aren't any floors for me to sweep, Not in my castle on a cloud."

              Nine years later and the streets of Paris are unsettled because of the likely demise of the only man in the Government, General Lamarque, who is in touch with the poor and wants to help them. There are lots of groups gathering around Paris, including a group of idealistic students who are preparing for revolution they are sure will happen on the death of General Lamarque.

              When the news of the Generals death reaches them, the students, lead by Enjolras, go to the streets of Paris to gather support. Only Marius, another student, is more interested with his new love interest, Cosette and sends his friend Eponine to find where Cosette lives. Eponine reluctantly agrees, hiding the fact that she is secretly in love with Marius.

              Eponine finds Cosette and takes Marius to her. In the night Eponines fathers gang go to rob Valjean's house but Eponine screams to blown their cover, and as Valjean awakes he is sure that it was Javert that was lurking outside and decides that Cosette and himself should leave Paris.

              "Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people, Who will not be slaves again!"

              The students start to build their barricades, against the warnings from the army who say they must give up or will die. Eponine returns from sending a letter to Cosette hurt and after confessing her love to Marius, she dies in his arms. The students promise to fight in her name, but the next day when ammunition is running low, the students are all shot and killed, including Enjolras.

              Valjean escapes to the sewers with an unconscious Marius but is stopped by Javert once more. Valjean pleads for his freedom and the chance to take MArius to a hospital. Javert decides to let him go, and in doing so throws himself into the River Seine.

              "He's like the son I might have known, If God had granted me a son. The summers die, One by one, How soon they fly, On and on, And I am old, And will be gone."

              At Maruis and Cosette's wedding Valjean confesses about his past and tells Cosette about her mother. He decides to leave Paris for good and shortly after the wedding, in the arms of Marius and his beloved Cosette, Valjean dies and joins Eponine, Fantine, and all the men who dies on the barricades.

              # Disk One and Two#

              On disk one you will find the performance of Les Miserables. Although it will not be to everybody's taste, the way they performed the musical was brilliant. The cast and singers all sat on chairs along the stage and just stood up to the micraphone when it was their time to sing, so don't expect for the musical to be acted out or you will be disappointed! There are however clips shown at intervals taken from the performances at the Palace Theatre.

              The best thing about this disk is at the beginning you can choose to have the lyrics on the stage, which helps as there is no acting keeping up with the story. It is also handy if, like me, you spend the whole time singing along!

              The finale of the performance where the whole cast sing 'Do you Hear the People Sing' was a fantastic ending with a different actor from a different cast from all over the world singing a piece in their national language.

              On disk two is an interview with producers Cameron Makintosh, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. I found this part of the DVD pretty dated as it was related to the success of the show in the early 1990's, however it was interesting to hear about the history of the show and how they first came about making the novel into a musical.

              # Actors #

              Jean Valjean- Colin Wilkinson. Colin was nominated for his role as Valjean on Broadway in 1987 for a Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical. He has appeared in other musical such as 'Phantom of the Opera' and was the Irish entry in the 1978 Eurovision song contest, where he finished 5th. His performance as Valjean was simply fantastic and increadably moving.

              Javert- Phillip Quast. Even though Javert can be conceived as an evil character, Phillips interpretation of Javert makes you think that he is a complex and sympathetic character worthy of both our respect and our compassion. More recently Quast has stared in 'South Pacific' and earlier this year started playing Peron in 'Evita'.

              Fantine- Ruthie Hanshall. Before joining the cast of Les Miserables in 1992, Ruthie started in 'Miss Saigon' in Broadway and since then has been playing Velma in 'Chicago' on Broadway. I was lucky enough to see her a few years ago whilst she was doing a UK tour of 'Fosse' and she absolutely fantastic.

              Eponine- Lea Salonga. Les Miserables came around for Lea at the beginning of her career, and since then she has gone on to sing on many a Disney soundtrack, including Aladdin and even replaced Christina Aguilera to sing the beautiful 'Reflection' in Mulan.

              Marius- Michael Ball. I had the biggest shock when I saw Michael walk onto the stage. I am so embarrassingly in love with him. Micael was another cast member to start his career in Eurovision, representing the UK in 1992 and coming second! He is obviously famous for his voice and his Biography must be a mile long. He was perfect in the role of Marius and stood out a mile for his voice.

              Cosette- Judy Kuhn. Now here is where I have my only complaint. I didn't think much to Judy at all. Yeah she has a brilliant voice, but she is a soprano and her voice just didn't fit the part of Cosette in my opinion. Maybe that or because she got to snuggle up to Michael Ball. Oh god I am turning into my mother. Les Miserables was Judy's first job and since then has gone on to work for Disney and sing as Pocahontas.

              # Final Thoughts #

              If you are anything like me and love the theatre, love Les Miserables soundtrack and love Michael Ball even more, then this DVD is for you. As I said before, if you are looking for something a bit more then just the songs then this DVD is not for and I would suggest looking to rent/ buy/ borrow/ steal the Dream cast version, which is the story without all of the singing.

              But if you are feeling really cultured then the best thing would be to go and see it in the Theatre. You can get information on tickets from Ticket Master or call 0870 950 0930 and for the rest of this month all tickets are dicounted.

              You can buy this DVD for £8.89 on Amazon at www.amazon.co.uk

              Best songs include:

              Castle on a cloud
              A Heart full of Love
              One More Day
              Bring Him Home
              On My Own
              I Dreamed A Dream

              5/5

              Brat

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              • More +
                28.09.2006 19:44
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                My story and help to others

                It is not often that you will see me opting to write a serious member advice review, I always much prefer writing about new albums, the theatre and the odd Dooyoo challenge.

                However, in the past four to five months my life has been completely turned upside down, and although I cannot write this and pretend that my life is now fine and I have 100% come to terms with what happened in the past 5 months, I am now a lot more composed and in a lot more peaceful place in my life, and I want to write this review to try and help others as well as hoping it will help me put things to rest.

                So five months ago and it was the end of a brilliant May. After months of talking and planning, my partner Jason and I decided that we would start trying for our first baby. I had stopped taking my contraceptive pill in January in preparation for our family planning, and I had stocked up on frolic acid tablets and had signed up to an internet fertility website to work out the days when I was most likely to conceive.

                From the moment we started trying for a baby I was obsessed. I have never been one to do things by halves and I would log onto an internet site I found where women would write pregnancy diaries and upload pictures of their ever growing bumps. I used the website as research as women would write about problems conceiving and things to try to help your chances. I would literally sit and wish that one day I would have my very own baby bump. I had heard women in the past moan about how 'fat' they got when pregnant, and I used to think that they were mad. This was the one time where it was natural to put on weight and eat for two! I wanted the biggest bump so everyone would know I was pregnant.

                I soon set out to rearrange my whole life. I cut down smoking, stopped drinking all together and made sure I always worked early shifts at work, so to be at home with Jason in the evening to continue with our baby making! I am sure you are quickly getting the point that I was so totally obsessed with getting pregnant.

                From talking to friends and reading personal accounts on the internet, I soon gathered that I may be trying to conceive for quite some time. This was a thought that made me quite depressed as I was committed to having a baby now and didn't want to have to wait what could be months or years. The plus side so far of trying to conceive was the constant attention I was getting from Jason. I had at first thought that I had talked him into trying for a baby, but it soon became apparent that he was just as interested and excited as me.

                After two weeks of trying to get pregnant I had the most disheartening and heartbreaking feeling; period pains. I started to bloat and have stomach pains, which I knew was a sign my period was on it's way, but yet I still remained hopeful, or should I say I was just in total denial. I quickly picked myself up and just reassured myself that it had only been two weeks and we would keep trying.

                And keep trying is just what we did. I just lived for getting home at 6 and racing Jason upstairs. I also remember watching a film where when a woman was trying for a baby, after sex she would sit on her bed with her bum and legs up against the wall so to help the sperm along. A compleat load of rubbish I know, but I was willing to try anything so this is exactly what I did, much to the amusement of Jason!

                And so another count down to my next period soon began and I became miserable, just hoping that I wouldn't have those monthly pains that by now made me feel compleat shit. And as the count down continued no pains came. My period wasn't due for another couple of days but my best friend, Jodie, talked me into taking a pregnancy test so I did. The two minutes waiting to see the results were the longest of my life, but I didn't want those two minutes to end as they could potentially shatter my dream that I was pregnant.

                Negative. What a waste of £10 I thought as I slammed the white stick into the bin. Jodie tried to reassure me that it could be a wrong result (She had 3 negative results when she was pregnant) or that I could of taken the test too soon and I should wait a little longer and then take another one or see my doctor. I waited days and still no period. I was concerned and thoughts ran through my mind that if I wasn't pregnant then it could be something a lot worse. I was a nervous wreck.

                By now my period was 49 days late and I still hadn't taken another pregnancy test. I didn't want to shatter the illusion and I didn't want to be told that my missing period was due to something more serious. So I acted like nothing was wrong, giving Jason a daily update of how many days late I was and keeping my fingers crossed that this month we had succeeded in making me pregnant.

                That week I went to London for my Mother-in-laws 60th birthday. We took her to see a show and as they all sat there downing the champagne, somehow I managed to go unoticed that I had only had two glasses of wine; two more glasses then I wanted in the first place, but I didn't want to draw attention to the situation. Whilst in London I became sure of the fact that I was pregnant. My boobs were swollen, I was hormonal and I felt sick for most of the day.

                I let another week pass and as it got to day 56 I got the worse feeling ever. I was sat on my sofa reading a magazine and as I stood up I had the worst cramp feeling in my stomach ever. I couldn't stand up the pain was so bad and I quickly started panicking about what the pains were. I soon rushed to the toilet and found that I had started bleeding. I sat down with Jason and told him about the pains and he flicked through the medical dictionary trying to find an explanation to my stomach pains. I have IBS, and so at first I put the pains down to this. Jason however found amusement going through every little disease in the medical dictionary and relating my symptoms to it; telling me I must be shagging around and have an STD was the best by far. Within minutes I was in tears and I finally made the decision to go and see my doctor.

                As I listed my symptoms to my doctor he just looked at me and smiled, giving me a blank look as if to say 'Why are you wasting my time', after all this is the man who laughed when I fell down the stairs and couldn't walk. Just as I thought he was ready to tell me to leave him alone and let him see someone in real need of a doctor, he asked me if I would lie on the bed and he felt my stomach asking me loads of questions.

                He then sat me down and his expression soon changed. He told me how I seem to have a urine infection, but he couldn't give me anything for it as it was apparent that I had miscarried. Everything he said from then on was just a blur and all I could think of was the words 'Miscarriage'.

                I walked in the front door and Jason greeted me with a smile on his face asking me what the doctor had said. I told him that the doctor thought it could of been a miscarriage and that I just have an infection. To tell him the truth was just too much. I couldn't believe it myself and the last thing I wanted was to sit down and explain something to someone that I had no understanding of myself.

                I just sat in my bedroom crying and listening to the same song 'Starlight' by Muse over and over again. For some reason the words just seemed to make a lot of sense at that time and I found it easy just to shut everything out.

                I was given time off work, although I didn't tell anyone what was going on. I didn't even tell my best friend, I just decided to go through it alone as I felt so ashamed to tell anyone the truth. I became snappy with my family and shut Jason out completely. I just spent all my time apart from him, just doing silly things like going out with my mates and spending the whole evening smoking Skunk. It is nothing I would recommend, but it eased the pain for me as I could relax and just laugh about stupid things like acting like a right clown.

                I soon decided that I was being unfair on Jason and I told him that I was unhappy with the relationship and made up a list of reasons why we should split up. I went to stay with my Grandparents for a few nights and visited an old school friend who lived in London. I saw the life my single friends had and it seemed so appealing to me. I started to look for jobs and flats in London and working out what I would do with the rest of my life. Within days I returned home to Jason as the stress my Grandparents put on me was too much and I thought I would be better pretending everything was fine with Jason.

                Jason threw himself into planning for a baby and he would leave me notes and remind me of the days I was ovulating and should be having sex. It was the last thing I wanted to hear and I made up stories about being tired or would pretend to be asleep. All I could think of was the miscarriage and the last thing I wanted was for him to be touching me and trying for another baby.

                Within two weeks of me moving back in with Jason and living the lie that I was fine, Jason soon caught on that infact I was far from fine and we decided to split up. As soon as he uttered those words 'We should split up' I was devastated. I didn't know what I was doing and worried that I was making the wrong decision, but I stuck with it and once again moved in with my Grandparents. While sitting in the same bedroom I lived in 6 years ago I just thought about the whole situation and just thought what if the grass isn't greener and I called Jason in a panic begging him to come and see me.

                The next day we met and I told him everything about what had really been going on regarding the miscarriage. I will never forget the look on his face. It killed me and all the feelings I thought I had put to bed about our loss soon came flooding back as I had to confront Jason and reassure him that I was fine.

                People will always try and comfort you with facts and figures about how 1 in every 5 women miscarries with their first child and how you will be ok because the baby was only in the early stages, but none of this helps, infact for me it made me feel worse as it made me feel that someone was mocking my loss and telling me that I shouldn't be feeling the way I was.

                I have since spoke briefly to one of my sister in laws who did exactly what I did and didn't tell her husband at the time. I think this is the biggest mistake I have ever made not telling Jason as it was his baby too and he deserved the right to grieve as much as I did.

                I wouldn't wish any woman to have to go through this and although this is a very personal and slightly long review I hope it shows to anyone who is also going through this or has been through this that it is ok to grieve and make mistakes.

                I still have days now where I just start crying about it. The worst thing is now I know that I will constantly worry about any pains I have as I will be thinking the same thing is happening again and even the slightest twinge now brings back floods of memories.

                But if I can offer you one piece of advice, it would be to talk to your loved ones about it and give yourself time to grieve.

                For any questions you may have, try www.babyworld.com

                Brat

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                • Ann Summers / Highstreet Shopping / 62 Readings / 45 Ratings
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                  03.09.2006 14:32
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                  Number one British high street sex shop

                  "Tacky", "Degrading to women", "Only for young slappers" and "Degrading to marriage". All words I have heard people utter about the most successful British High street sex shop, Ann Summers.

                  I saw my first Ann Summers shop in Bristol during 1999. The windows were blacked out so I couldn't see what was inside and a large poster filled the doorway, reading in bold letters "Strictly for over 18's". I was under 18 at the time, but the thought that there was something so secret in that shop that I wasn't allowed admittance was too much for me, and curiosity got the better of me, as it usually did, and I dashed home to ask my mum what was in there. She laughed but informed me that it was full of sex toys and porn. So not to look like the sex mad teenager that I was in front of my mum, I pulled a face of disgust and left it at that, secretly imagining to myself how amazing and cool it would be to old enough to just walk in.

                  And so I fast forward to 2003; At the time I was studying at the Bath Spa University College and as the year was coming to an end word starting going around about the fresher's ball. Although we were in our second year, we decided to gate crash and thought it would be a great Idea to go in fancy dress (God knows why, but hey, it was college!). And so after a boozy lunch we walked into Bath town center to find that a new branch of Ann Summers and Knicker Box had been opened. My face lit up and I literally ran into the shop, making up for lost time all those years ago.

                  Whilst most of my friends were more reserved and looked embarrassed, I instantly fell in love with the bright pink decorated store and started looking for my first purchase. The store was open to anyone, unlike the branch in Bristol, as at the front of the shop it was all their underwear ranges, and although they were very sexy, there was nothing there that could of offended anyone of been unsuitable for young eyes.

                  Although the underwear was, ahem, pleasant, I soon saw that there was a darkened area at the rear of the store, once again with a sign pointing out that the nature of the stock would be unsuitable for under 18's. I walked straight to this section with my blushing friend and as I walked through the doors to the adult section all I could do was laugh. I am far from being unaware about sex toys and what is available, but even I was shocked at the amount of different toys they had, and have to admit to not knowing what half of them were for.

                  And so after spending far too much and laughing so much I started crying (Mainly because my best friend asked a timid looking sales assistant what was a 'Turbo tongue' and could she give us a demonstration- she was a good sport and showed us how it worked) my impression of the store was good. Everything looked clean, the displays were amazing and the staff were more than helpful.

                  Since this experience I have been into another back street sex shop, and it only had young men working there, all of which were asking me personal questions and it was obvious that they would be straight down the pub after work telling their mates about the whole experience; something which I am glad to say you don't feel at Ann Summers. The staff seem like they have good product knowledge and really try to be as open with you as possible and try and put you at ease. I observed a sales assistant serving a shy looking man who obviously had no idea what to buy for his wife, and they instantly tried to help him and make him feel more comfortable with the whole experience, and gave him a blank looking bag so to avoid embarrassment; something which I thought showed a real understanding of the customer and demonstrated excellent customer service.

                  # HISTORY OF ANN SUMMERS #

                  Ann Summers is a private company that is owned by David and Ralph Gold. David Gold started out in the publishing, printing and ditribution business starting his comapany, Gold Star Publication's. Davis had his finger in many different businesses, including owning the Sunday Sport, Birmingham Football Club and Gold Air. But looking for a new challenge, he saw potential in the High street sex market and the Ann Summers concept.

                  The company was named after a secretary David and Ralph had employed and ever since Ann Summers opened it has targeted female customers. Because of the strict British laws surrounding licensing of sex shops, Ann Summers in unlicensed and therefore only able to sell a very small amount of sex toys and pornography.

                  In 1987 Jacqueline Gold (David's daughter) was made a director of the company after successfully devising the Ann Summers Party idea, and in 1993 she was made Managing Director. Since then the company had gone from strength to strength, buying Knickerbox in 2000 and making a turnover of £110 million in 2003/4.

                  # KNICKERBOX #

                  Knickerbox was a 1980's success story. They were the market leaders for afordable underwear, but during 1999 they reported a £5 million loss, and so in 2000 Ann Summers bought them out, turning the 27 Knickerbox stores into Ann Summers.

                  The range that is on offer today is brilliant. Most of the lines they sell is very affordable and can be bought either as singles or as a set. The knickers that they have on sale are incredibly sexy and range from a size 8 to 18.

                  It is only with their bra's that I have a problem with. I think it is fair to say that the bigger busted you are, the less likely you are to find nice underwear; however, companies like Marks and Spencers and Bravisimo seem to changing this by offering bigger cup sizes, but Knickerbox don't seem to have caught up yet. In the stores and on the website they praise themselves for offering sizes 32 to 40 and cup sizes A-F, however in reality if you are looking for either of the later, you may be left disappointed or with a disgusting and unflattering style of bra.

                  # SEX TOYS #

                  Ok, so now to the best part of Ann Summers, and what 90% of people go into the stores for. The first bit of advice I would give you if you are thinking of buying one of Ann Summers sex toys is to know before you enter the store what you want your toy to do because the sales assistant may just try and flog you anything to bump up their commission.

                  The first thing that you will notice about their range of vibrators is the amount of different sizes, colours, functions they have. If you have never used one before then go for something simple like a durex wand. this is just a line of G-spot simulators which has three different speeds and is rechargeable.

                  But if you are not a vibrator virgin and want something more then just a G-spot simulator, then try the Rampant Rabbit. These are exclusive to Ann Summers and became famous after being featured in Sex and the City. The regular Rampant Rabbit is 7 1/2 inches long, including a 4 inch pearl-studded two-way rotating part and a two speed clitoral stimulator. Now there are many different Rampant Rabbits including the Deluxe (it's smaller but the pearls have been replaced with metal balls adding to the feeling of stimulation) and the Platinum Rampant Rabbit which has 7 pulse options, 6 shaft metal balls for more stimulation and is 6 1/2 inches long (I would highly recommend this!)

                  Ann Summers also sell sex toys for men, including cock rings, anal vibrators and underwear made out of sweet's. Obviously a lot of the toys on sale for men I can't comment on, but one thing I would highly recommend from the men's toy's range is the Dirty Dolphin. It is a cock ring with a removable vibrator so that both people can enjoy the experience.

                  All of the Sex toys range between £10 and £50, although there are gold vibrators that cost over £100.

                  # CLOTHES #

                  If sex with your partner is becoming a bit boring or you never seem to do anything different, why not find out what your partners fantasy is and go and buy a dressing up kit? Ann Summers literally have something for everyone; be it a fireman, police, doctor for the women or nurse, maid or playboy bunny for the men. However I recently saw that Ann Summers also stock outfits for you Trekkie fans. I personally like the Prairie and Wench outfits but find the male outfits laughable. For example, they sell animal heads as penis warmers and most of the outfits just consist of a rubber thong- not a good look on any male!

                  Most of the outfits range between £20- £35.

                  # FUN ITEMS #

                  Ann Summers is always brilliant for stocking fillers, birthday gifts and hen nights. They sell the most stupid but fun things, such as a penis shaped toothbrush (something my mother-in-law so kindly pointed out to me!) penis straws, chocolates and edible underwear.

                  My mates once bought me some willy earrings and whistle for my 18th which were good for a laugh, although the best thing I have seen in their gadget section is the blow up dolls. There is one called Rodger who is the ugliest thing ever, but hilarious for when you have all had one too many. The downside on Rodger, is like most men he needs a good blow to bring him to life.

                  Prices range between £5 to £20

                  # BONDAGE #

                  The bondage section of Ann Summers is the one that interests me the most. I personally don't understand how people like to be spanked with a wooden cane or leather whip, but some people obviously do and Ann Summers more then cater for them.

                  They stock a lot of bondage clothes, like vamp clothes and body suits. They also sell PVC tape, which you can use to wear yourself, or dress your lover in.

                  There range of bondage toy's is the most growing section of Ann Summers collection. If you have never really tried bondage, or unsure about the limits you will go to, then I suggest you try their bondage starter kit. It includes PVC tape, a leather whip (which has tassels to reduce the amount of pain) a blindfold and nipple clips.

                  However if you want to push the pleasure/ pain experience a little further then there is a bondage belt you can buy for £30, which includes hand cuffs, mask, ball gag, whip and spanker. I personally like the dominatrix set they sell. It is a very fun kit, which includes rhinestone embellished handcuffs, whip, eye mask and massage oil; even better, its all in pink!

                  # BOOKS AND DVD'S #

                  The books's that Ann Summers sell are very harmless and far from being classed as porn. Most of the books they sell are cartoons and include sex jokes, although they do also sell books on how to be a better lover, the Kama Sutra, sex games and a step by step guide on how to give sensual massages. I would recommend 'Sex in the Kitchen' a book about how to incorporate food and sex in a series of mini stories, and 'The Modern Kama Sutra'; this is a practical guide to better positions, and everyone can do them. It also has hints on how to give better oral sex.

                  I wouldn't recommend the DVD's they have on sale at all. They are pricey at around £15 and are very mild and soft porn.

                  # LOTIONS AND OILS #

                  Apart from the usual lubricants on sale and hygienic wipes, Ann Summers also stock a wide range of lotions and oils for giving massages. It is a fact that a good and intimate massages will lead to mind blowing sex and so choosing good oils is a must. You don't want an oil that is really strong smelling, you need something relaxing and one that you both like the smell of.

                  I have never bought massage oils as I am not trusted to give massages but from the products I have smelt in store, they all smell gorgeous.


                  My personal opinion is that it is healthy to try new things with your sexual partner and Ann Summers has always proved to be a brilliant place to get ideas and to buy safe and fun new toys.

                  I would highly recommend having a look around your local Ann Summers and trying something new.

                  Enjoy ; )

                  Brat

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                  • Lidl / Highstreet Shopping / 37 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                    14.08.2006 16:44
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                    Small German supermarket selling German meats and other goods.

                    I bet for many of you on here, when you hear the name ‘Lidl’ think cheap food, bad quality, for poor people, and until recently I would have fully agreed with you. My opinion of the German supermarket lidl has never been very high and as an influential teenager I would have never been caught dead in my local branch.

                    My first experience of Lidl was in 1995 when a new store opened in Frome, Somerset. My parents were never poor but we loved a bargain and Lidl’s looked like the place we would get this. I wasn’t very impressed initially as I could see no big names like walkers or Cadbury’s and the sound of baked beans costing as little as 4 pence sounded far from intriguing.

                    However my opinion changed dramatically two years ago, when I found a very respectable Management job at…yes you guessed it- Lidl’s. I now have first hand experience and more of an understanding of what Lidl’s is, what they sell and what sort of customer they attract.

                    History of lidl
                    “”””””””””””””

                    Lidl, formally known as Lidl & Schwarz Grocery Wholesale was founded in Germany in the 1930’s. Ever since then Lidl’s has not stopped growing. Lidl has divided into hypermarkets known as ‘Kaufland’ and discount food stores known as ‘Lidl’

                    Germany had its first taste of Lidl’s in 1973 when the first stores opened. Ever since then Lidl’s has become a major household name in Germany and has continued to expand into almost every European country.

                    The first store in England was opened in 1994 and now ten years later there are over 300 stores in the UK.

                    Lidl’s Philosophy is, and always has been to keep things simple. This means that there are no hidden charges, everything is of a high quality and you get what you pay for.

                    Shop
                    “”””””

                    All Lidl’s stores are to the same lay out and so this makes it very easy for customers to find what they want and feel at ease if shopping in a new store.

                    All shops are a bright yellow with dashes of blue, this makes the shop look welcoming and very appealing; these bright arrays of colours also make the shops easy to find off road sides and Dual carriage ways.

                    Outside the shops there is always a large car park with disabled spaces. As far as I know, all car parks owned by Lidl are free, although obviously if you choose to leave your car there while visiting other stores, you do so at your own risk and Lidl will hold no responsibility.

                    Also outside the stores, there is a trolley park. Most of these trolleys have children’s seats. You will need to pay £1 to use the trolleys and when you have finished your shopping you get your pound back. In the store I work at we have recently been given disabled trolleys, which only hold a small amount of shopping and are not so deep as the standard trolley.

                    It is worth noticing that Lidl do not supply baskets. These were constantly being stolen and so this is the outcome. There are often boxes scattered around the store, which you are more then welcome to use in replacement of a basket.

                    Fruit and Vegetables
                    “””””””””””””””””””

                    Our Fruit and Veg is delivered daily. This means that we can offer the best quality to our customers and have a constant supply to suit your needs.

                    I often hear customers comment on how great the quality of our fruit and veg is, and I agree. We try and pick out any bad items and throw away most of what is not sold so fresh items can be offered.

                    The thing that I think stands out about Lidl’s fruit and veg selection is the price. We constantly have half price offers on selected items and always try to bring in and try different exotic fruit for customers to try.

                    Meat and poultry
                    “””””””””””””””

                    Our chilled meat and poultry is delivered daily between 12 and 6 PM. We offer a range of chicken, turkey, beef and pork. We often have offers on the meat and poultry and occasionally bring in new products depending on the season, I.E- BBQ chicken pieces for the summer.

                    I sometimes hear people are wary of trying our meat and poultry, and with no good reason. I have always found that our produce is just as nice as you would find in other supermarkets and for half the price. I sometimes get the feeling that just because the produce is cheap, people think there is something wrong with it!

                    One thing that I personally love about the shop is its selection of salami. It may sound strange but you can buy the big blocks of salami- something I have never seen at any other supermarket.

                    Chilled food
                    “”””””””””””
                    At the back of all Lidl stores it a huge chiller. These contain essentials like Milk (note lidl only sell whole and semi-skimmed) and other luxuries like meats, yoghurt and cheese.

                    The cheeses on offer are generally very nice, although I do find the mature cheeses stronger then usual, but that’s just my personal opinion. I also find that they stock a wide range of meats, such as turkey breast, wafer thin ham, salami, smoked ham and forest ham just to name a few.

                    In the chillers, you may also find a small, but growing selection of convenience foods, like microwavable pizzas, burgers and hotdogs. Although I was cautious of these items at first, they are extremely tasty and incredibly cheap.

                    Frozen Food
                    “”””””””””””
                    Frozen food, like our chilled food, is delivered daily at lunchtime and is put on sale immediately.

                    Lidl offer a vast range of frozen goods including ice cream, meats, seafood and convenience food.

                    The ice cream on sale varies from traditional vanilla tubs to the luxury chocolate flavour, (its good believe me!) choc-ices and ice pops. These are very reasonable, with the large 1L tubs costing as little as 59p. I have also found their frozen cakes to be just as delicious, but a little pricey at just over £3.

                    All the meats such as leg of lamb and beef burgers I have found to be very tasty, and often with bigger portions then usual large brand names have to offer.

                    I am not keen on seafood at all, and so have to be honest and say I have never tried any of the products in this section. However, I have been recommended products by customers, in particular the large King Prawns.

                    Convenience food is very new to Lidl and so I’m not convinced. Some of the microwave meals look nice but I always think all meals like this taste vial. Friends have tried some products, such as the kebabs and spring rolls and haven’t been too impressed but I am sure with time, Lidl will be able to improve this.

                    Tinned food and all other basics
                    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

                    Now as I said before, the price of the tinned food was the first thing to put me off. It is VERY cheap and I used to associate quality with the price. But once again I was wrong.

                    Apart from your standard baked beans and spaghetti hoops, Lidl offers a huge range of tasty soups including tomato, lentil, chicken and Scottish broth to name just a few.

                    On this isle you can also find basics such as noodles (at only 15p!) pasta goods, cooking oils, tuna and other seafood, pot noodles and pasta sauces.

                    I personally think that this is the area where Lidl really needs to praised. Their quality of tinned food has improved dramatically and this seems to be the products that they are always trying to develop.

                    Other basics include dog and cat food and cleaning equipment like bleach, window cleaners and dusters.

                    Confectionary and crisps
                    “””””””””””””””””””””””

                    Now on to my best isle! There is no way you can enter a Lidl store without having a look at all their chocolate products. There are loads of things on offer and let me tell you they are all delicious (yes I have tried most of them on your behalf…it was my pleasure!)

                    You can buy anything from Quality streets, Mars bars, Twix etc or try delicious German and Belgium delicacies.

                    My best are the bars of milk chocolate (only 20p) and the chocolate chip cookies. They are a must if you have a sweet tooth just like me!

                    The crisps on offer are just as nice. There are big names like Walkers and Hola Hoops or Lidl’s own brands of family mix crisps. All very nice and all extremely reasonable.

                    Drink
                    “”””””

                    The soft drinks on offer are excellent and there is so many to choose from. There is your basic orange, apple and blackcurrant but even nicer are the fruit juices on offer. Ice tea, cranberry, pear are just a few of my favourites.

                    There is the basic tea and coffee on sale, but this is another area where Lidl is starting to improve. They have now brought in hot chocolate, decaffeinated tea and coffee, ice tea, earl grey and flavoured tea.

                    But for those of you that like something stronger their beer is FANTASTIC. I personally always buy the single cans of 59p Pills and it is better then some of the larger brands. Most cans are in packs of 4 and the same goes for the bottled beer.

                    Recently they have also started selling a 20 pack of Stella and Boddingtons.

                    I am not overly keen on the wine they sell, although it is very cheap and so I guess you truly get what you pay for. I must also recommend their sangria as it is delicious and comes in a huge bottle for only just over £4.

                    Non-food items
                    “””””””””””””””

                    Every Monday and Thursday, there is a new load of items added on sale. These can be anything from a thermo-flask, kids toys or a tent to the more luxury items of DVD players, Digital cameras and PC equipment.

                    There are leaflets in the store to let customers whet is going to be on sale and in some areas leaflets are distributed door to door.

                    Checkouts and staff
                    “”””””””””””””””””

                    Now comes the bad part! I am always hearing people say that there is never enough people on the checkouts. In our store we have six tills and usually have 4 checkouts open all day, more when it is busy.

                    I have heard some people really moan about this on Dooyoo! But to be quite honest, I have been into Asda and Tesco’s and waited far longer. I think people just think that because there are fewer tills that all the staff are doing nothing.

                    At the checkouts you will have to pay for bags, 3p for small bags, 9p for large bags and 49p for freezer bags. Another area that people don't understand is why Lidl make you pay for the bags. Any supermarket you go in, you have to pay for bags, it is just a hidden cost; but Lidl have choosen to give the customer the chance to recycle bags and have a choice if they want to pay for them.

                    There are packing benches at the end of the shops where you can bag up you goods.

                    As for the staff, well of course I am not going to slag off myself as I think I am very good at my job, but I can see why people would complain about some people.

                    Some members I have met really couldn’t care about the customers as long as their boss is happy and I think some customers can see this. Not that I think this is expectable but Lidl’s really don’t employ many staff and so each member of staff working really has a lot to do.

                    I personally wouldn’t recommend Lidl as an employer and if you talk to other ex members of staff I think you will soon find out, but as a shop it is fantastic and I would defiantly recommend it to everyone!

                    S-L-B

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                    • More +
                      06.08.2006 19:49
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                      Second album from award winning band from Battle, Keane

                      For those of you who have read my reviews before, you will be well aware that I am a huge Keane fan. My love affair with the band from 'Battle' started way back in May 2004 when I first saw them playing at Bristol Uni. By this time they had only ever released 'Somewhere only we know' and although that was my single of the year, I really didn't know what else to expect from this little known band; but sure enough they blew me away with their powerfull lyrics, Tom Chaplin's characteristic voice and the bands individual sound.

                      Ever since that day I have followed everything that Keane has done, bought their singles, DVD's, artwork, autographs (no I don't do things by halves!) and of course their hugely succesfull debut album 'Hopes and Fears'. Hopes and Fears sold over five million copies worldwide, gaining them two Brit awards (Best breakthrough Act and Best Album) Q magazines Best Album award and they were nominated for a Grammy.

                      Hopes and Fears was the biggest selling album by a British band in 2005, with only Scissor Sisters beating record sales. The band continued to tour with the album, taking them all over the world and touring with some musical Legends, including U2 when they performed at the london 'Live 8' show.

                      And so with the year drawing to a close and the festival season over, Keane started to write and record their long awaited album 'Under the iron sea'. The album was recorded in different studios all over the world, including The Magic shop in Soho, New York and the Helioscentric Studios near their home town, Battle.

                      The band are said to have felt an incredibly intense atmosphere during the writing and recording of the album, they feel that they have created a kind of sinister fairy-tail gone wrong with a feeling of confusion and numbness represented by a dark place under an impenetrable iron sea.

                      And so we fast forward to the 6th of July 2006 with me frantically driving to HMV before I have to go to work, hoping that the album is in stock. Most shops were taking pre-orders for the album, as they do when expecting a huge sales figures, but no, there on the shelves was a full display of Keane's new album; 'bad sign?' I thought to myself?

                      And so after a killer 12 hour shift just itching to listen to the album, I finally arrived home and with an ash-tray and can of beer at the ready, I peacefully sat back and listened.....

                      # Atlantic #

                      And so the first track on the album- the most important in my view, starts very slowly and sure enough there is a very creapy and distressed sound about this track. There is a strong sound to this track, with lead singer Tom Chaplin sounding enraged and Drums played by Richard Hughes playing a leading role throughout. The song slowly becomes more light but far from bouncy and happy.

                      "I don't want to be old and sleep alone/ An empty house is not a home/ I don't want to be old and feel afraid".

                      2/5

                      # Is It Any Wonder? #

                      The first track released from the album. The opening is powerfull and you could easily mistake this for a U2 track. I really didn't like this song when it was first released. The sound is flat with no buzz like in previous Keane tracks. However the track picks the pace up slightly in the chorus and bridge near the end. Not a brilliant song to represent a new album.

                      "Be living in the kingdom of the good and true and so on/ But now I think I was wrong/ And you were laughing along/ And now I look a fool for thinking you were on my side"

                      3/5

                      # Nothing In My Way #

                      This track starts with a slow but steady beat, and will have you thinking that this is yet another snoozing song, but looks can be deceiving and this song slowly picks up with the chorus being very catchy. Although this is not a high tempo song, it has a very pleasent feel to it and once again Tom Chaplin shines with his brilliant voice, which just captures the emotional feel of the song instantly.

                      "And why did you lie?/ When you want to die/ When you hurt inside?/ Don't know what you lie for anyway/ Now there is nothing left to say".

                      4/5

                      # Leaving So Soon #

                      Unlike the other tracks, this one starts quickly but at the chorus picks up even more. The bass plays very quietly throughout this track, with the attention really on Tom's voice, and he doesn't disapoint. Althought the words are a bit crap throughtout the begining of the song, the chorus is brilliant with the bass and Tom's vocals taking off. I really love this track and think it could so easily do well in the singles charts.

                      "Your leaving so soon?/ Never had a chance to bloom/ But you were so quick to change your tune/ Don't look back if i'm a weight around your neck/ Because if you dont need me I dont need you."

                      4/5

                      # A Bad Dream #

                      What a real disapointment, after such a brilliant song I would expect them to keep the spirit going, but no, once again we are back to a slow depressing song which just has no intention of going anywhere. Unfortunately this song was not a bad dream. A pure Album filler.

                      "Why do I have to fly over every town and up and down the line?/ I'll die in the clouds above and you that I defend I do not love."

                      2/5

                      # Hamburg Song #

                      When this track first starts it sounds like church music- and that is an instant turn off for me. The first minute or so of the song is just Chaplin singing solo with little music in the background. And that is basically the whole song over and done with. The words are just too much mix and match- trying to be deep but it just hasn't worked on this track. Although Chaplin's voice is beautiful on this track, it just isn't enough. The best part is when it ends.

                      "I dont want to be adored/ Dont want to be first in line/ Or make myself heard/ I'd like to shine a little light/ To shine a little light on your life/ To make you feel loved".

                      1/5

                      # Put It Behind You #

                      OK just when I thought I could have a little nap, the tempo is once again up and we have vocals, bass and drums going everywhere. This song just sounds way too mashed up with too much going on at once. It literally sounds like they are racing to get to the end of this track. DIRE.

                      "Time goes by at such a pace/ It's funny how it's easy to forget your face/ You hide the cracks the facts will find you/ Turn your back and leave the lonely days behind you now".

                      2/5

                      # The Iron Sea #

                      Ok so it has been going over 3 minutes now and all I can make out is a sound track that would fit better in war of the worlds. The point of this track...umm...umm...there isn't one.

                      0/5

                      # Crystal Ball #

                      YAY a bouncy and light hearted track, about time, I feel so depressed at this stage and am taking it out on a pack of Lambert and Butler's finest; my poor lungs. Right so back to this dire album, as I said this track has a brilliant start and although this track is not the making of a number one single, it is a good track with a catchy chorus. I heard the other week that this is to be the next single. It may do well as 90% of people who still buy CD singles are a fickle bunch.

                      "Who is the man I see/ Where I'm supposed to be?/ I lost my heart/ I buried it too deep/ Under the iron sea".

                      3/5

                      # Try again #

                      And so I am forced to reach for more fags as, yes you guessed it, another slow and depressing track. to be fair, the lyrics are a lot better on this track and the track does some how keep going and the chorus clearly shows Chaplins vocal ability. But even that is short lived and before you know it I am flicking to the next track.

                      "I fall asleep on a late night train/ I missed my stop and went round again/ why would I want to see you now?/ To fix it up somehow".

                      3/5

                      # Broken Toy #

                      This track starts unlike anything I have heard from Keane before- think Jamie Cullum. But as soon as the jazz is over, we go back to the slow moving tempo, which I have become used to during this album. Once again the sound is very spacey (is that a word?) and easy going but not something that I think Keane fans will like.

                      "I think you know because it's old news/ The people you love are heard to find/ So I think if I were in your shoes/ I would be kind".

                      2/5

                      # The Frog Princess #

                      I actually like this song (SHOCK HORROR!). Yeah the song is slow but it works and the lyrics are great. The chorus is brilliant; a real summer song and a real real good song. Thank god they got the ending track right..Pitty it's a little late.

                      "An old fairytale told me/ The simple heart will be prized again/ A toad will be our king/ and ugly ogres our heroes".

                      3/5

                      And so thank god thats over. Its really hard as a huge Keane fan to be so critical of their work, but in my honest opinion this album isn't a patch on Hopes and Fears. I know that this is very common in second albums, but I really did expect more from Keane when you think that they have had two years to write and record this album.

                      Another thing that bugs me about this album is the lyrics. They are very mix and match and many of the tracks don't seem to have a meaning to them, as I had come to expect from their first album. And the words 'Under the Iron Sea' seem to pop up i every song- as did 'On the other side' on their previous album.

                      Such a pitty that this is all Keane could offer and I really hope that their fan base stays strong and their next attempt is a lot better then this dire collection.

                      I would recomend that you buy Keane's first album, but just borrow/ steal/ download this album as otherwise you may feel very out of pocket.

                      I have found this on Amazon for £5.98 used and £8.99 new.

                      Brat

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                      • More +
                        01.08.2006 18:28
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                        Brilliant west end Musical

                        I was shaking with excitment as my Mother-in-law opened her 60th Birthday card- unaware of what delights were inside it. Then I saw a tear and we all started bouncing around laughing like giddy school children. This was sure to be a birthday present she would never forget- a weekend in London with front row tickets to see The Phantom Of The Opera.

                        So we all jumped into the car, laughing and mock-singing the shows most famous songs and waving at unexpecting lorry drivers on the M1. Even the fact that it was the hottest day since 1911 could'nt stop our squeals of excitment.

                        When we arrived at our Kings Cross hotel, we all quickly got into our glad-rags and once again gave the hotel a tune-less rendition of 'The music of the night' - I don't think the hotel staff knew what to make of us!

                        Getting to the Hotel was easy, we flagged down a taxi and it cost little over six pounds, although if you are not put off by the smelly underground, then I am sure that would be an even cheaper option. The nearest stops are Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. I would avoid driving to the Theatre as parking is expensive.

                        Her Majesty's Theatre is in the busy Haymarket area of London, and if you arrive early like we did, there are a few nice bars and restaurants around and Piccadilly Circus is just 150m away.

                        The theatre itself is a Grade 2 listed building which was designed by C J Phipps and has been open since April 1897. Since its opening it has played host to a number of fantastic musicalls including 'Paint your Wagon' 'West Side Story' and 'Fiddler on the Roof'.

                        This latest instalment of Phantom of the Opera has been showing since the 9th of October 1986. Tickets are on sale until the 6th of January 2007 although more dates are thought to be planned. Since the Phantom has been showing at Her Majesty's theatre it has won every major British award, including the Oliver and Evening Standard awards.

                        "The Phantom Of The Opera remains the most exciting musical in London" - The Daily Mail

                        Of course the first cast is the most famous, including Michael Crawford as the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Christine and Steve Barton as love interest Raoul. The same cast also went on to perform in the New York production, which opened in 1988. The original casts recordings is also the first cast album in British history to enter the charts at number one and go Platinum in Britain and America.

                        The story of the Phantom is one of the most famous musicals and one that produces the most shocks on stage. I could imagin this show being ever directors dream and nightmare mixed into one as there are so many 'special effects' and twists to capture. I felt the the show that we saw captured everything, it was brilliant start to finish.

                        Although the 2004 film was good, I now believe that people who are not used to the theatre expect the same quality of effects on stage, which is just impossible.

                        The story of the Phantom starts in 1905 at an auction being held on stage at the Opera de Paris; the items on sale have been found in the theatre's vaults. The main item at auction is a giant chandelier that once hung from the ceiling of the Opera house. The auctioneer starts to tell the strange tale of the Phantom of the Opera, which had intrigued Parisian theatregoers half a century ago. As the Auctioneer lights the chandelier, the set changes and we are transported to the year 1861.

                        The opera cast are interrupted during a rehearsal of Hannibal to be introduced to the Opera house's new owners, Messrs Firmin and Andre. As the owners watch the leading soprano, Carlotta performs 'Think of Me', a backdrop tumbles to the floor dangerously near Carlotta's head. All of the dancers cry that is must be the Opera ghost and as ballet mistress Madame Giry steps forward with a letter from the Phantom, Firmin and Andre's fears are brought to reality. The letter states that box five must be left empty for the Phantom's use and that his salary must be paid on time every month.

                        As un-liked Soprano Carlotta quits, dancer Christine Daae is pushed forward by best friend Meg. Christine fills Carlotta's role brilliantly and her managers are delighted, as is the new patron of the Opera, the Vicomte de Chagny, Raoul; a childhood friend of Christine's.

                        After the performance of Hannibal Christine returns to her dressing room to be congratulated by Raoul and her secret tutor, the Phantom. The Phantom takes Christine down to the vaults of the opera house, where he lives. He tells her that he is her angel of music and she must stay with him so that she can learn to sing better then anyone before her. Slightly frightened, Christine faints. When she wakes in the morning she angers the Phantom by taking off his mask, which covers his deformed face. However he still believes that Christine can love him and he returns her to the opera house demanding that she takes the role in the next opera, Il Muto.

                        Still unsure of the Phantoms powers, Firmin and Andre go against the Phantom and put Carlotta in the role and Christine is given a silent part. Once again the Phantom is furious and during the performance cuts down the grand Chandelier, which falls to the stage at Christines feet.

                        Christine and Raoul flee the Stage to hide on the roof, unaware that the Phantom is watching them.
                        This is the start of a love affair between Christine and Raoul. The two soon become secretly engaged, much to the the disappointment of the Phantom who plans revenge on the pair.

                        The Phantom demands Firmin and Andre produce his opera Don Juan Triumphant, with Christine in the lead. Firmin and Andre agree, thinking that they can catch the Phantom and stop him terrorising the cast.

                        And so Christine steps onto the stage scarred at what fate has in store for her in her final showdown with the Phantom.

                        "Andrew Lloyd Webbers musical extravaganza .... As spectacular a piece of true theatre as has been seen in years" - The Daily Telegraph

                        The cast in the performance I saw range from unknowns to experienced actors. All were fantastic with the actors in the main roles doing a fantastic job.

                        The Phantom- Played by Earl Carpenter. Earl has had attended Bournmouth's Jellicoe Theatre training school and has had roles as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Courfeyrac in Les Miserables and Darryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick.

                        Christine Daae- Played by the talented Rachel Barrell. Rachel was trained at the Guilford school of acting. Before the Phantom she played Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Belle in Beauty and the Beast

                        Raoul- Played by Dvid Shannon. David started his career touring in Les Miserables and has been involved with other tours of Oklahoma and Jesus Christ Superstar.

                        The best thing about the show has to be the songs. They are theatre classics and are just beautiful. These include:

                        Think of Me
                        Masquerade
                        All I ask of You
                        Prima Donna
                        The Point of no Return
                        Wishing you were somehow here again
                        The music of the night
                        The Phantom of the Opera
                        Angel of Music

                        Magic, Memorable and so Spectacular - The Sunday Express

                        I have seen the Phantom in theatres all over the U.K now and this has to be one of the best performances I have seen.
                        All the parts were played fantastically and the chemistry between Raoul and Christine was brilliant. And as for the phantom, The mystery that the actor made you feel about this character was unbelievable- the best Phantom I have seen.
                        I understand that because the tital has the word 'Opera' in it that people are very easily put off, but this is a very light hearted story about love and the story is funny with some great comical moments and the best soundtrack on the west end.

                        If you are wanting to go to the theatre but dont want something to heavy, go and see the Phantom. You will love it!
                        Her Majesty's theatre has..

                        An infra- red system - headphones and neckloops are available at the box office.
                        Guide Dogs are not allowed in the auditorium but dogs will be looked after by staff.
                        Wheelchair ramps are at the rear of the theatre and staff will need to come and open the doors for you as they are locked.
                        Some seets have extra leg room- these must be requested when booking tickets.
                        There are three (VERY EXPENSIVE) licenced bars.

                        Tickets are between £15 and £47.50.

                        Enjoy! Brat

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                        • Barratts / Highstreet Shopping / 4 Readings / 16 Ratings
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                          29.09.2002 02:53
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                          For the past four months I have been working in a Barratts store. Before working for Stylo PLC, I didn’t have the best opinion of the company. I had always bought my shoes from other stores as I thought Barratts shoes sometimes looked very tacky and false. Then for my birthday last November I bought a pair of lovely boots from Barratts and just as quick as they debited my bank had my opinion changed for the better. So what is Barratts? Well, Barratts was set up to rival the likes of Dune, shoe market and their main rivals, Clarks. Barratts started like many others, in Northampton, and still when you visit Northants you can see the huge white factory and café’s named after the shop. Barratts almost took a sudden plunge last year when the manager of Stylo PLC was planned to be on the aeroplane that tragically was hijacked and crashed into the twin towers on September the 11th. Fortunately for him, he had to cancel a day before. The range and standard of Barratts has improved dramatically within the past three- four years. Now you can find Barratts selling top makes and names for very reasonable prices. WOMEN ******** It is undeniable that most shoe companies make their money from women of all ages. Shoes are like chocolate, you can never have enough! The women’s range in forever growing and now we cater for all occasions, ages, styles and seasons. The main shoes that we sell are Saxons, Kangols, Hush Puppies and Barratts. Although some have low opinions of the Barratts make, they are constantly improving and are now very fashionable, comfy and of reasonable price. All the Barratts shoes are stuck and not sown on the soul though, which I would advise you watch on some styles and always check that the shoes are in one piece before buying! Most Barratts shoes look very much like big names, just cheaper for those who find some prices very steep. The Saxon shoes are very popular although
                          in my opinion I find them very boring, old fashioned and uncomfortable. Probably best for school shoes as they are cheep and the heals are not high, but not advisable if you will be on your feet for hours on end! The width of these shoes in standard, which can be difficult for bigger, sized feet. Prices are usually around £20, which once again, is good for anyone on a budget or looking for children’s school shoes. Kangol shoes seem to be becoming more popular all the time. They are very comfortable and extra padding is included now. One of the advantages with this shoe make is that all the shoes are of wide fittings. The styles are very up to date and they come in all size heals, ranging from approximately two inches to a completely flat shoe. Although these shoes are made for all, I do find that the styles would appeal more to school children or people up to mid 20’s. The prices on the Kangol shoes are rather more expensive, but then you are paying for exceptional comfort and standards. Prices usually are from £30 to £45. Hush Puppies shoes at Barratts are very popular with our more mature market as they are rather plain but very comfy and they are guarantied to last. Hush Puppies are always sending us new styles, trying to attract new markets, which is working, as now the styles look more authentic. Hush Puppies are padded to try and enhance comfort. All shoes are flat and mostly come in Black or brown. If you do enter a Barratts store, I suggest you look for Hush Puppies, Chortle shoe as it is the newest style from the company and very popular. When looking for Hush Puppies, be very careful and ask for prices before you try/buy, this is because the prices are not stuck on the Hush Puppies and they are our most expensive make. Most shoes range from £35 to £45. (Most being £40) Barratts own brand of shoe has increased in quality quite rapidly, and are of reasonable price. Just to prove this, I b
                          et if you walked into a Barratts store you would not be able to tell apart Barratts shoes from any other brand. All of our shoes come in a standard width, which can sometimes prove difficult for larger sizes. Barratts stock sandals, shoes, slippers and Boots. For shoes and sandals, prices are £15 to £35; slippers are £8 to £10 and Boots are £35 to £75. Obviously the pricing depends on the style. For our trainers we sell Hi-tech, Active, Kangol and Sketchers. Personally I love the Sketchers and we are constantly getting new styles. All styles are suitable for all ages, so wipe away the theory that Sketchers are just for teenagers; just last week I sold a pair to an 80 year old! For the younger market, Sketchers sell buffalo styled trainers, which tend to be very sparkly and quite camp, coming in blues, reds, pinks and any other colour you can think of! For more mature people, we stock stylish Sketchers, most of which tend to be suede. Sketchers are very comfy and of a very high standard, and so expect to pay £40 to £55. Ouch! The Hi-tech and Active trainers leave little to the imagination and are very bland. They are comfy, but not incredibly and tend to market for people on a low budget. They range from £20 to £35. The Kangol trainers are very nice and comfy and also some come in a buffalo style. Mainly for the younger market and range from £35 to £45. All women’s shoes go from a size 3 to 8. Children’s ******** For kid’s shoes we sell Saxons, Kangol and Barratts own styles. Most of the shoes are Barratts, and once again, come in a standard fitting. The staff at Barratts should be trained to fit young children’s shoes as we have to attend training. In all stores you will be able to have your child’s foot measured. If you would like this done, make sure they have socks on and if you had them last measured at another company, such as Clarks, you may want to have t
                          hem d one again as our fitting differ. Also keep in mind that all shoes are different because of the styles and so sizes do tend to differ. All the styles and makes are very similar and padded. The sizes are from 3-13, 13-5 and 1-6. Barratts also stock birthday shoes, which are very cheep and so adorable. We stock both girl and boys shoes, including slippers and daps. All shoes cost between £10 and £25 while slippers are £8 to £10 and dap’s are £3. Dap’s also come in many styles, including slip on and Velcro. For children’s trainers we stock our own styles as well as the same in the woman’s section. We do sell kid’s Sketchers, which come in smaller sized and different, younger looking styles. The prices of the Sketchers are usually £30 to £35. Men’s ***** Ok, so it’s not really every mans fantasy to shop for shoes, but let me reassure you that all our shoes are of superb standard, and all our staff are trained to understand your needs. In the men’s we sell Rock wood, Lee, Saxons, Barratts, Sketchers, Umbro, Hi-tech, Hush Puppies, Dc Martins and Wrangler. I really think a lot of the men’s collection; although some of the makes are very bland (i.e.- Hush Puppies) most are of high standards and come in all styles. Most of our men’s shoes come in sizes 6 to 12. In some styles we also stock 13. Rock Wood- This is a small collection but one of the best qualities. The shoes are very up to date and comfortable and are forever improving. If there were some down sides, it would be that they are very clumpy and as the quality improves, so does the price increase! Still they are very suitable for young boys/men at school/college and for any type of work. They range from £30 to £40. Lee- At the present we only sell trainers by Lee and I really love them. They are very stylish and of the highest quality. The shoes are named after fa
                          mous boxer s, such as Tyson, Lewis and Lenox. Personally though, the Lenox shoe is rather bright, which can be off putting. They are £35 to £40 Saxons- Although I think very little of the Women’s Saxons, the men’s are very nice and practical. They are best for people who are looking for a smart shoe at a reasonable price, although once again, they are not well padded and if they are not a perfect fit, they will rub badly. These shoes are £20 to £35 The Barratts shoes come in many styles now including boots, formal, deck shoes and slippers. The men's shoes are very good for Barratts and well padded. They reach all markets and are of a reasonable price, ranging from £10 to £40. Hush Puppies- although these are best for comfort and standard, they are also very expensive and formal. Many of the shoes are old-fashioned and would suit our older market. Apart from those disadvantages, Hush Puppies do sell “hypo-lex” shoes, which means they are big in width, this has become very popular with bigger sized feet. Once again, watch pricing on these shoes as they are not stuck on the shoe and tend to be £35 to £45. All of our trainers are very stylish and comfy and styles are always changing. In some stores we now sell Umbro football boots and trainers. These are so comfy and I highly recommend you look out for these. Extras ***** Tall and small- for all of you with bigger or smaller feet who often feel at a disadvantage, we now have a tall and small range in our men and women’s shoes/boots. Although every shop can order these for you, not every shop stocks Tall and small, but in all shops catalogs should be provided or alternatively you may try our web site at www.tall-small.com or ring our customer service on 01274 893845/ 893837. You may order and pick up shoes from any Barratts store or Dorothy Perkins. Please allow seven working days for your orders and if you d
                          o try the shoes and change your mind, there is no obligation. Men’s shoes come in 13 and 14 and women’s come in 1,2,9 and 10. All prices are the same. Bags **** We now sell all style bags, including children’s bags, school bags, men’s and women’s. In the children’s we stock bags such as Tweenies, Barbie and Winnie the Pooh. In the women’s collection we sell black formal bags or small bags ideal for shopping or a night out. All bags range from £6 to £20. For limited times we also sell purses, umbrellas and children’s Wellingtons. Please see in store for further details or go to our web page at www.Barratts.co.uk Sundries ******* In all stores we sell sundries. Here is a list of what we sell: Shoe polish. These come in Blue, Black, Brown and neutral. If you are unsure on colours it is best to get neutral as this will work on any colour leather. £1.90 Protector spray. We sell two or three of these so do be careful on what you can use them on. Mostly you can use on leather, suede, nubuck, and all colours. It is very important that you buy this. We will offer this to every customer as part of a sale because it will resist against rain, snow, spills and any stains. It is important that you spray before you wear the shoe. £2 - £4. Stretch spray. If a shoe feels tight you may wish to spray the inside of the shoe and then put your foot in, and the leather will stretch and fit around your foot. Simple! £3 Insoles- if a shoe is to big in width or length, you may wish to use an insole, as it will bring the size up by half. In some styles we do not sell half sizes, so these are ideal. We sell them in children’s fittings or adults. You can buy them to size or buy an insole that you cut out for your size. £2 - £5 Heal grips- these are ideal if your shoe slips a little. People tend to think that they will not help,
                          but believe me, they help a lot and make a big difference. £1.90 We also sell sets for £5, which includes polish, brushes and sundries for any make of material. See in store for details. Staff **** All of our staff attend training sessions where they are taught about how to complete sales and how to fit shoes. It does sound very basic but we need to know this in order to help you find a comfortable and correct fitted shoe. Over 70% buy shoes the wrong size, and so that is why we are there. I realise that we can be very annoying when all you want to do is shop and there we are asking, “Can I help”, but that is what we are paid for and on top of that we get mystery shoppers and are marked on our sales performance, so this is vital for us. If you do need any help or assistance, don’t fret to ask; we should be easy to spot as we are provided with a uniform. Hints on how to fit your shoes *********************** Once again, this does sound very basic but read on- you might learn something! Well most obviously is the fact that we all have different shaped feet. All of our insteps are different, high or low, and you may think there ugly, but your toes depend a lot on the style of show you can wear. There are three types of toes, ones that are round, ones that are square and ones that are sloped. If you have round toes you are ideal for pointed toes, where as if you have square feet, you are suited for square fitted and would not fit into pointed; see, simple! Anyway here is a step- by- step guide on how to fit your shoes: Firstly always sit down while putting your shoes on but NEVER do up laces sat down, they will always be too tight otherwise. One you have done this, walk up and down at least three times to get a feel for the shoe. Next get someone to feel your big toe. You must have a nail’s length space, especially with children as this
                          is growing space, and eac h pair of shoes should last past three months. Next place your fingers on the side of the shoe and run your fingers down the front several times; if you can feel your toes they are too small. Lastly, feel under your heal, if your heal is resting on an un-padded piece of the shoe, they will rub and give you blisters. It is very important that you always try your shoes on in the shop and before you wear them out, walk on a carpet to wear them in. And lastly…. *********** If you have a problem with your shoes, please take them back to the shop within 28 days with proof of your purchase and we can give you a refund, this does not include sundries though for health reasons. You must bring proof though because obviously some shoes such as Sketchers can be bought in other shops. We do except English sterling travellers checks and do sell and except vouchers. I’m not really sure if I would have changed peoples opinions of Barratts but please next time you see one of our shops, go in and look around our collection, as I keep saying, we are always improving and trying to meet your needs. Thanks for listening, Spoilt Brat. –X-

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                          • More +
                            14.09.2002 03:17
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                            When I first saw this opinion, I didn’t know whether or not to write “My story”. It is very personal and full of painful memories, heartache, happiness, hope and something that has shaped me for the rest of my life. I have had a very intimate experience of an Internet relationship; I don’t think this gives me the right to preach to people, but I would like a chance to tell you how that box you are staring at changed me. Like many of you, I have been on Internet chat rooms a few times; I’ve never been obsessed but I found the rooms harmless and a release from boredom. When I was in school about to do my GCSE’s I went through a stage of depression, I think it was because everything was changing around me and not all for the better; my boyfriend and I had split up after finding we actually hated each other and all my close friends were pouncing around like whores with a time bomb. I felt really isolated and alone. I used to baby sit on a regular basis for my two young cousins; I loved getting the money but found it really tedious having nothing to do. After a few months my auntie bought a modem for her Internet connection, at first it started off as a resource to check e-mails and going on a few game sites. While reading a magazine I found an advert for a teenage chat room called “Teen chat”. As I had nothing better to do, I went on the site and quickly I had made many virtual friends. So once again I was baby sitting, and yet again I logged onto the chat room. I had been talking to this boy, who’s for arguments sake we’ll call Jack; he seemed very friendly and seemed very interested in me. We went to our own private room, and then on my screen came the question I will cringe at for the rest of my life, “Want to cyber?” So being the naïve little girl I was, I said yes, and to answer your questions, yes I did do it and no I wont do it again! So being as hormonal as I wa
                            s, I gave him my e-mail address and he gave me his. The very next day I logged on and sent him an e-mail and to my disappointment it was rejected. I tried and tried for the next month but all the messages were rejected. It didn’t bother me too much but I felt a bit p****d off that we wouldn’t talk again. So as I said, life continued, as boring and uninteresting as ever, until un-expectably I received an e-mail from Jack. It was just an advertisement for a web page, but all the same, at least now I had the correct e-mail address. I continued to e-mail him and I started receiving replies. We only sent small e-mails and they were very uninteresting, but all the same, it felt good to have a new “friend”. Everyday at school I would log on to my email and read his emails but after a month he stopped. Being the impatient person I am, I consisted to email him urging for a reply. I got that reply and was given the excuse he had been on holiday, but something struck me as strange, his tone was different and his emails longer and more in depth but this was the last I thought of it. One evening everything started to tumble on top of me, I had fallen out with my mum, I felt rejected by my dad and his “new” family and my ex- boyfriend had turned into the “ex” from hell! So instead of doing my usual ritual, screaming and thumping my pillow, I decided to call a friend a talk but know one replied and once again I fell into a miserable pit of depression. I was really on the verge, nothing seemed to matter anymore and all I wanted to do was shut things out. It may sound like an illogical solution but as an escape from my depression, I went to my aunties and emailed Jack, but this time I left my mobile number. Now as boring as my story may sound, “Blonde psycho turns crazy” this is the point where things start to change, and not all for the better. I was with my best friend while she comp
                            leted her daily paper round, when I just had a daring moment and I rang Jack. “Hello is this Jack?” “No this is Jason” (Once again, I use this name to cover up the real ID of the people involved) I was quite disturbed but apparently he just used this name to hide who he was. At this stage all I knew of “Jason” was that he was 18 and was at collage. He lived with parents in Cambridgeshire, smoked and was single. I really felt my luck was in and consisted to run up my home phone bill by calling him. He couldn’t use his phone because of his parents. So, here is your second twist, I told him I was 16 when in reality you had to take away two years to get the real number, but hay, how was he going to know any better! As our friendship grew I became very fond of Jason and we talked almost every other day. I had never been close to my father and I feel that at first it was good to have a male influence, as he was very mature and knowledgeable. It seemed to be just what I needed. As the friendship progressed, Jason seemed to hold back more and make up stories to make me think he was mad. I remember an amusing story about him talking to bats and a mortifying story about how his parents and sisters hated him and thought he was mad. But no, it still didn’t put me off; I liked him far too much. And so I was mortified when he told me to not talk to him anymore. I felt humiliated and heartbroken; I had come to realise that my feelings were so much more then I ever thought for Jason. He said it was because our feelings were too much and the age gap was wrong, of course by now he had worked out my real age! I begged and begged for him to stay with me and he did, I couldn’t believe he did but we decided to give our friendship/relationship a go. So once again I present you another twist, and believe me, this is a huge twist! Whenever I baby sat now I always put the children to bed early, just so
                            I could go on the Internet and speak with him. One night we had been talking for hours when he said he had to tell me something important. He wasn’t the boy I thought he was, in fact he wasn’t a boy at all, he was a 26-year-old man. Jack was actually a real person and Jason used to let him use his computer but they fell out and Jason took over talking to me. Looking back now, I know many of you may think he was wrong and a bad person, but he never tried to meet me and never tried to talk about sex etc. Now we started a relationship and were very honest about our feelings and I must admit, we did love each other, but it was weird because we had never met and decided not to for a year, when I was 16, not for sex but so people would not think we were doing anything illegal. I told my mum about Jason and she didn’t like it at all, she blocked the phone and warned him off, but he didn’t go, we carried on with the condition that when we did meet, my mum would meet him to. So eight months had gone by and we were still progressing and feelings were getting stronger and harder to deal with, especially with actually never meeting. With my friends all dating it all pilled on top of me and I finally cracked, I spoke to him and told him it was all over, another five months was too much for me, and so that was the moment everything changed. “Ill come down tomorrow!” And so clinging onto the remains of our relationship, on the 21st of June (The longest day of the year!) we met in private in a public park. He was the same as his picture but obviously more gorgeous. I couldn’t even look at him, I was so taken back; everything I had wanted was stood in front of me. We went for a coffee and talked, it was brilliant. Even our uncoordinated kiss didn’t seem to bother me! I finally told my mum a month later in Ibiza and she was very upset but not angry. My mum met him a month later and loved him. Obviously bec
                            ause of the distance, we couldn’t see much of each other but quickly things progressed, he met all my family (Bar my dad- leave the biggest till last!) he spent Christmas/ birthday/ new- year with me. Although people look down their noses at us sometimes when the find out the age difference and how we met, it really doesn’t bother me. We have started seeing more of each other, I stay with him and visa- versa, been on our first holiday, and second to come in November to Paris. My advise for anyone in a Internet friendship is to meet him/her in a public place or with friends. Don’t meet until YOU want to and never be rushed into anything. For more tips and safety advise, read my opinion on “Have you found love on the internet”. My last thing to say to any of you out there in a net friendship is good luck and be safe. Although my story may not be ideal, we have been together two years and, why rush a good thing!

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                              18.07.2002 03:23
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                              I know what a lot of people think of Bath, a lovely city with brilliant architecture, every corner tells a story, or you could think that Bath is full of rich old people who look down their noses at everyone. Personally I’m inclined to agree with both, but I am willing to put all my grudges behind me and explain to you how I see Bath from the past, present and future. I was brought up in Bath by my grandparents but left to live in the country, and here I am 10 years later once again living in the city with the “golden” spring. I must say my impression of Bath now is very different from what it was four years ago when I first moved back. So here I go, please bear with me as I try to go through all aspects of Bath from BC to the present day. **** Bath’s Development **** Years ago I studied Bath, which I suppose I took for granted at the time but now thinking back I think its amazing how just a few small events could be the making of such a, now huge and powerful city. The development of Bath first started in the 6th Century BC when according to legend, Prince Bladud was cured of leprosy by the hot spring waters. At this stage in history, Bath was far from what we see now, Bath’s land was used purely for farming but still Bath was very unpopular and had no recognition. In the 1st Century AD the Romans invaded Britain and soon discovered that the hot spring waters could cure skin diseases. The Romans made their mark and soon built the town Aquae Sulis. Many people from all over the Roman Empire came to visit the famous Baths and temples. Bath at this time was mainly seen as a religious centre, but by the late 400’s the Roman Empire fell and the Saxons invaded southern Britain and “Aquae Sulis” was abandoned and all buildings were ruined. Within the next 100 years the Saxons built a small Christian settlement on the ruins of Aquae Sulis and started to use the water from the sprin
                              gs. In the 8th Century the Bath Abbey was built and was regarded as one of the most important religious buildings in Wessex. By 973 AD, Bath was now very popular with many visitors and had a vastly growing population. King Edgar was the first King to be crowned King of England and he was crowned in Bath Abbey. This event gave out a very strong message to all visitors coming into Bath. At this time everyone was quickly becoming fascinated with royalty and going where other royalist had been became fashionable. Many monks soon moved to Bath and used the water to cure the sick. Bath continued to grow as a very big religious centre with the Bishop of Bath starting to build a large Cathedral and soon a small market had started to grow around the Monastery and Cathedral. Bath was controlled by the Church and brought many visitors because of this, but Bath was also a largely established wool-trading town. Within the next 400 years the Black Death reached Bath killing hundreds of locals. The Black Death halted Baths progress and soon Baths population was quickly dropping. By 1539 Henry VIII was on the thrown and he ordered that all monasteries were closed, this included the famous Bath Abbey. In the late 1600’s Charles II and James II started to make trips to Bath making Bath once again very popular. Bath started getting recognition and it became a growing trend to visit the waters and bathe as the royal family did. In 1767 when John Wood JR had built the Royal Crescent, members of the royal family made it tradition to stay at number One Royal crescent. This brought Bath extra trade as followers of the family would want to stay in the famous house for £140 P.A. The crescent was built purely to attract people from Bristol to Bath. When you travelled from Bristol, the crescent would be the first attraction that you would see. The crescent is a very grand building and soon as Bath extended, all houses were built like the crescent. In the 18th
                              Century Bath became a very rich and popular City where the rich and famous would dine and be treated to luxuries such as the theatre. In 1841, Bath got its first railway line from Bath to London. This enabled the public to freely explore London and it also offered Bath more trade and wealth. As you can see, it is the small things like this that make Bath what it is today, the “Golden City”. Today Bath is a very advanced city with millions of tourists each year from all over the world. Just in 1995, Bath healed the youth Olympics and more recently a series of events for Sport relief were held here, including Dwight Yorke and other famous sporting heroes. Of course the way Bath was seen and preserved then is very different from what it is now. I hope I have given you a brief idea of how Bath became so famous. I do strongly advise that if you have never been to Bath before that you take the time to see this famous and beautiful city. There really is something for everyone, young and old. So now on to the present, how do I see Bath? What is there to do in Bath? Here are a few points for any tourists or people interested in Bath. **** What to do in the present Bath **** Of course if you were going to come to Bath, the obvious thing to see would be the Roman Baths. I have been in them many times and every time I find something new. If you live in Bath you can get in free or at a discount, but anyone else can get in for a very reasonable price. When you enter the Baths you will be given a phone. When travelling around the baths you can type a code into the phone to hear your own personal guide. This is a new feature to the baths and one that is very favourable. The Baths is not something to be rushed though. Make sure that you leave at least a morning or afternoon to explore the golden springs. But do not be deceived, it is not just a hole in the ground with natural spring water, no, the Roman Baths takes y
                              ou on a journey around ruins and every stage tells a new story. You can find out how and where the Romans lived, How the Baths were discovered, built and restored back to its natural beauty. The Abbey is also open to visitors all year round. It is actually interesting and very beautiful. I suppose I take it for granted being able to go in and out of the Abbey at any time, but it is a great place to visit. I think the Abbey looks very beautiful at Christmas, there is a huge decorated Christmas tree outside and the Abbey is decorated. But beware, as there are many carol services held by schools at this time of the year so don’t expect to quietly stroll in and out! I really enjoy looking around the Museum of costume. It takes you on a journey, explaining how the economy effected rations and what people would wear, right up to the present day. It even includes dresses worn by the Queen. This Museum is once again, very cheap and free to any one who lives in the area. Bath is also famous for it’s postal museum, although I admit I have never been, but I hear that it is very enjoyable and educational. In the area is the famous Longleat house and gardens. I have been many a time and strongly advise you to go. It is fascinating to see all the animals and the house is just magnificent(Although rather spooky!). Lord Bath currently lives in the house (I think in the west wing) and the house is covered in his explicit paintings. The grounds also hold the longest Maze, and it is very big; I have been in many times but still get lost (Note: cheating by jumping through hedges is not advisable, unless you like being covered in thorns!). There is a big playground for children of all sizes. You are measured and are given an animal name, each ride has names on and if your animal name appears, you are allowed on the ride. There is a postman Pat house and shop, and a very hot butterfly home. Train rides and animal shows are also available all day. I really
                              enjoy the safari park. You can either go on a tour or in your own car, but beware; there are many monkeys who make fun of scaring your children and ripping your car apart- great fun! Bath is also famous for the Recreation ground where their rugby pitch is. I have only been once, but well worth a visit. Among the waterfront on the recreation are restaurants and children’s play areas. You can get boat trips that take you under the famous Pulteney Bridge and on some occasions will include food and wine in the trip. If you are staying in the area long, I recommend that you take a day trip to Bristol. There you may see the S.S Great Britain and new to Bristol is a centre where you can explore Dinosaurs and the Stone Age. It really makes a brilliant day out. You may also like to visit the docks, as this is a very lively and entertaining point. I like Bristol, and used to live there although crime is the highest ever and some areas are far from being “nice”. The shops are good though and there is a wide variety to choose from. Bristol is home many large department stores and I recommend you find T.K.Maxx; a shop with brilliant names at discount prices. For eating out in Bath, try and find “Café Plazza” in the Podium or the Moon And Sixpence (Broad street). There are many oriental restaurants and take away and many friendly pubs that serve food. I would stay away from Turkish restaurants though as they all tend to be take away as well as sit down restaurants, and always get very crowded and hectic. The nightlife is very good in Bath and I strongly recommend you go to Moles (George Street). Moles Tuesday cheese night is one not to be missed. I wouldn’t recommend you go to Reflections as it is very rough, but there Thursday nights “Fusions” is excellent, but not for the faint hearted. For pubs I would recommend the Litten Tree on George Street and the Globe in Newton St. loe. The shops are
                              quite good. At the bottom end of the town you have all the sports shops and chemists (Boots/ Superdrug), in the centre you have more upmarket, such as Marks and Spencer’s, Accessorise, Cadburys, Clarks, Barratts (Look out for the sexy assistant in there, lol!) and at the top of town you have expensive shops, such as the jewellers, Jollys, House of Fraser, Waterstones. The shops are still growing and to be quite truthful, not for the better. People in Bath keep trying to change the culture and the more they build, the more they push people away. My house was bought for £77,500 and its now worth a lot (And I mean A LOT) more. I live on the outskirts of Bath in a three-bedroom house. The houses in the centre are around half a million. The Bath council knows what sort of impression and what sort of people they want in Bath, and unfortunately the more they push, the more people are being made to leave because of expenses. Each year more and more people are coming to Bath, it’s now impossible to park unless you leave at 8 in the morning and people are becoming more interested with their self importance. As I said I went to a school in Bath (Hayesfield girls school- no I’m not gay!) and constantly I was reminded where I lived and what was expected of Bath, it was very false. Most of the people in Bath (Mainly elderly people and rich University students) are the type that waltz around with daddy’s credit card, and it honestly makes me cringe when I see what Bath is coming to. As much as people will try and deny it, Bath is very divided; the people who have the money, the people that want the money, and the people who go out of their way to despise the people with the money. But whatever the culture in Bath, one thing is for sure, Bath is a lovely place to visit but as far as living goes, I can’t wait to leave.

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                                12.07.2002 02:13
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                                There was a time when people seemed to be pleased with what they were given. People seemed to go out, meet friends, socialise, date and quickly fall into the “serious relationship” category. However, now it seems people are satisfied with paying for a prostitute. Now before you start with the hate mail, I’m not saying I am against prostitution, I just want to try and explore every aspect of the “Job”. In the dictionary a prostitute is said to be “A person who offers sexual intercourse for payment, offer oneself for unworthy purposes.” I have got good and bad views on the subject, I have also been confronted with a prostitute and this one confrontation, I think its fair to say, has changed my life for better and worse. I can remember my mum having to tell me what a prostitute was when I was 9 after watching something on the T.V, no doubt in a soap opera! But I soon became fascinated with the pure indecency of this career path. The rest of the kid’s my age quickly became aware of the meaning and soon it was a growing joke that if you failed an exam you would have to be a prostitute. I suppose this sum’s up the translation of how the job is perceived! But as much as people may be fooled, prostitution is not a modern trend. In fact it has been around for hundreds of years. In Edwardian times many lower class woman would work as servants or maids for upper class families. If the woman were sacked they would be on the streets with no other income and the only job available was prostitution. Many aristocratic men would use these women. Another way out of a home and onto the streets was if you refused to sleep with your master or master’s son. It is causes like these why I feel sorry for women who have to go through the pain of sleeping with a bunch of dirty old men. So that was then and times have changed, a lot, so what are things like now? I live in Bath, a very big city w
                                here your find your typical old rich people and students living off daddy’s credit card, but yet among the spoilt rotten, it’s still easy to find a man or woman willing to sleep with you. I used to live in Bristol and everywhere you turned there was a prostitute. Prostitution is a trade undertaken by both male and females, but I must admit I have never seen a male prostitute. I remember while driving through Saint Paul’s in Bristol once, a prostitute on the street corner, looking like a drowned rat waved at me, I didn’t know what to do other then laugh it off! So just as many things in this life, there are advantages and disadvantages. Advantages of prostitution must be simple I suppose, your getting money for doing a simple task, well so the theory goes. When talking to people before it becomes apparent that many prostitutes are women with children or who have been chucked out of their home. I must admit sex and money are two of my favourite things but something I feel not to be put in the same sentence. I have always thought that a person makes his or her own luck and money; you get an education and put it to use. If you don’t have a job you look for one, even if it’s just for £3 an hour, surely this is better then selling yourself? Many people believe that sex is only to be performed within a marriage, being an atheist I strongly disagree but I do feel that sex is an act of love between two people and stands for something very strong. Whether you choose to sleep with your partner on your first week, month or maybe years, sex is not something to be taken lightly. Sex is perceived in many different ways to Catholic’s, Atheist’s, Christians etc, and I always feel each to their own, but one place where sex seems to be viewed lightly is in the media. On television you cant go one day without seeing someone divulging into intercourse. For all soap fans I’m sure the most recent story line
                                involving prostitutes was EastEnders Janine. This story line appealed to me to find out the girls reasons. She did it through loneliness, being without money or a home. Another story line from the same soap was Zoë Slater who ran away from her home and was homeless; for support and money she was forced into prostitution. Of course the way soaps perceive situations sometimes are far from reality, but I personally found these story lines intriguing and informative. One of the first films I watched involving prostitution was the well-known story of Mole Flanders. This really shocked me having to watch a women sell herself just so she could live. Other then television, prostitution has recently been in the press as speculation has arisen on whether or not prostitution should be legalised. As many of you reading this, I have variable views on this. I recently watched a channel 5-morning program called the Wright Stuff, and they were discussing this controversial subject. As I said before I once had an experience of a female prostitute. My mother and I lived with her fiancée and had done for five years. He had cheated before but was stupidly forgiven by my mother although I never forgot or forgave. One night my mother and I were stranded in Bristol waiting for him to pick us up. After being an hour late he finally showed telling us he had been mugged and all his money and watch stolen. However a month later this had happened twice and condoms were going missing. It soon became apparent he was using a prostitute. This is why I hate the job. Because she was available my mother and I had to move far away and start a new life. I realise if it wasn’t a prostitute it would have been someone else but how can you lower yourself to sleeping with a stranger and realising your actions could be wrecking peoples lives. That is unspeakable and one of the many revolting facts as to why prostitution should be abolished and not legalised. Many prostitute
                                s stand on street corners, out side train stations, the list goes on but lets face it, it’s not hard to spot one; tacky PVC skirt, hand-me-down top and pathetic hair style. (Oh god, the hate mail begins!) But that really doesn’t bother me, what does bother me and many others is the fact that this is being done right outside our houses where small children live. As I said before, if there were no prostitutes, men and women would find a substitute. I don’t think that I would ever go with a prostitute for the simple reasons that I wouldn’t pay for sex and I would be worried what I would catch. I don’t agree with one-night stands but would rather do that then go with a prostitute. Oh, also I’m happy with my partner! If people want sex with no commitments then fine lets keep prostitutes because whether we like it or not, it’s a growing trade, which I feel would be impossible to demolish. So getting straight to the point, should prostitution be legalised? My answer is yes. By trying to stop the dirty deed your be fighting a lost case as people would still find a way to do it, its like drugs, you try to stop it but yet there will always be resources helping those few people keep the trend alive. However, although personally I hate the idea of prostitution and think its disgusting and degrading, if this will continue then the only way to help ourselves is to legalise it with conditions, which we will set and so we feel these people will not be interfering with us. It sounds a pathetic theory I know, but think about the situation we find ourselves in now; people are exposing themselves to this trade outside local places where our children go and where we are being confronted with unnecessary embarrassment. At the moment there are places such as Brothels (AKA- whore house) where you can go and find a prostitute but these people are (it sounds stupid) professional. They are checked for STD’
                                s and treat their trade as a business to be taken with pride and respect. So how would legalising prostitution help the growing problems? If we legalise the trade we could dictate to the “street crawlers” where they must conduct their work so not to interfere with any children or business. If prostitutes hang around out side houses or businesses, finances and trade will decrease, if however we put the prostitutes in areas where they will not be interfering and to keep the privacy of the punters secure maybe we will be helping ourselves. One huge aspect to remember is that, as many grudges you may have about the trade, these women and men are humans and deserve to be treated with respect. So there, I give you my advice, honest feelings and conclusions. I know I may have upset many people in my opinion, but when rating please try to remember that this is what it is- my opinion! Many people, 75% to be precise, agree that it should be legalised, not because they want to use the service, but because they want unresolved problems solved. But however much people may protest and feel strongly, with the growing fears of the government, I find it very unlikely that this will be legalised for the foreseeable future. But whatever does happen, I think it’s sure to say that prostitution is here to stay.

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                                  03.07.2002 23:24
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                                  As you all know, as July is now upon us quickly come the summer holidays and weekends away. This June I took a week’s holiday with my Boyfriend to Dartmouth and stayed in a self-catering “Hut” for four nights. During my week in Dartmouth I had some time to explore the area and explore the south’s way of living. For any of you looking for going on holiday to Dartmouth in the near future, here is a bit of information about the sleepy town. The first thing you should know is that Dartmouth is far from being the next Ibiza, it is a very sleepy town with 99% of the population looking like they are over 60. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great little town but don’t go there expecting your nightclubs, high street fashions and latest copy of vogue. In most of the holiday parks they will ask prior your holidays what the ages are of the party, how many there are and what sex they are, so not to have loud groups of clubbers. Dartmouth is great for couples and elderly people, but mostly I used my holiday park as a base, somewhere to sleep and store my oversized suitcase. **** Shops **** In the centre of Dartmouth is a pretty park full of flowers, memorial benches, water features and a bandstand. (Don’t worry you don’t get the dodgy music to follow suit!) Don’t expect to use this as a short cut as you will most probably get held up by a band of Zimmer frames. On Friday expect to see the local bring and buy, full of hideous plates and knitted jumpers. Each to their own I suppose. Surrounding the park are a few shops, including Boots, Woolworths, Ladbrokes and small family shops that all seem to specialise in sweets and bakeries. One interesting thing to notice about all the shops is the buildings. All of them seems to date back and tell a story giving the place a very ancient and atmospheric feel. Very captivating. There is a market on Tuesdays where you buy fruit and Vegetables, underwear (It’s no
                                  Ann Summers- think belly warmers.) music and a few clothes. All shops tend to be small and quite behind with trends but everything is fairly priced and everyone is very friendly and everyone knows everyone. There are a couple Internet café’s so it is cheap and easy to find near by attractions, check e-mails and check your dooyoo! Dartmouth has a big Information office where you will find maps of Devon and friendly staff catering for all ages. **** Travelling **** If you are thinking of staying in Dartmouth, it is very advisable that you have a car or some means for long distance travelling. Most holiday camps are just outside of the centre down many narrow country lanes, which are very secluded. There are some pretty hotels on the waterfront but you will pay the price. Most web sites give information of directions to camps, but most road signs are very clear and easy to follow. I also suggest you drive very slowly as the narrow windy roads are just waiting for accidents. Try sounding your horn on corners. There are many elderly drivers and overtaking them is not advisable due to the vast number of tractors and speeding cameras at every bend. If you wish to park in the centre of Dartmouth, try leaving early as parking spaces are limited and are quickly taken by shop staff and delivery vans. Parking is cheap but hard to find. While travelling around the centre, always have change on you, as there are two main sources of transport, the higher and lower ferry. Each costs £2.50 single but around mid-day you may be expected to wait up to three hours. An alternative is going cross-country that will add an extra ½ hour on your trip and that’s not including the amount of time it takes reversing because of other cars and tractors. Not recommended! The lower ferry takes you directly to Kingswear and over the Paignton and Dartmouth steam railway. **** Eating out **** You would think that because I was staying in self-catering that
                                  I would always be eating out but I tended to stay in and have BBQ’s and spend 1 hour and a ½ cooking potatoes and baked beans! (God, that was really annoying) On our first whole day my boyfriend and I went in search for a big breakfast but by the time we had searched it was time for dinner. Unless you want a small rushed lunch, I advise you go in one of the many pubs for a meal. All of the pubs are very friendly and most have a television for the football but I recommend a pub on the same street as Boots (you cant miss it) called the Market Place. There are no really oriental restaurants, it’s mainly fresh fish and chips but we did manage to find a lovely little Italian called Pizzazz that is situated on the waterfront. It is a family business with the waiter being extremely friendly, and what was best is they didn’t rush us and it had a great atmosphere. The carbonnela (Sorry I cant spell!) was exceptional and for such high quality food, it was very reasonably priced. The only fault was that the cream on their Irish coffee didn’t float, tusk! By our second day we had found the one and only visible place to buy a breakfast (Note to any business people- there is a great gap in the market!) it was called the seafront café, and funnily enough it was on the seafront, what an original idea! Their breakfasts catered from a small continental breakfast that included two croissants, orange juice and tea or coffee. Other breakfasts included tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms, black pudding, but being the fussy individual I am, I recommend the Detroit breakfast, baked beans, two sausages, hash browns and an egg all for £4.50, pricey but more than worth it. The service was very friendly and the décor was fascinating with real boats, fishnets and fishing rods all hanging above you. Just on the outskirts of Dartmouth is a pub called the Sports mans arms, which I recommend for a quiet evening drink. Most of the pubs have pool tables, darts and machines. *
                                  *** Day’s out **** As I have said before, it is easy to find things to do in the Internet cafes and information offices and my boyfriend and I found many interesting things to do. Our age average is 22 so we were looking for fairly active days out that would fill the day and keep us occupied. Other then active things to do around Dartmouth, there are many things to go and see. I recommend trying Dartmouth castle, the marina, Maritime collage and nautical. You may wish to go on the Paignton and Dartmouth steam railway where you will be taken along the spectacular Torbay coastline to the Olde Worlde port of Dartmouth and the fascinating River Dart Estuary. The English Heritage Dartmouth Castle is brilliant as it stands guard over the narrow entrance of the Dart Estuary. A few things I found out was that the castle was the inspiration for Chaucer’s “A Shipman’s Tale” and it was one of the first castles built for artillery. One place I went to, which if I’m honest I was disappointed with, was Blackpool sands. It is beautiful and the water is wonderful but it was described as “Golden sand” when in reality it was just pebbles. Humm, someone needs their eyes tested! At the beach there are not allowed any dogs due to them wanting to maintain the clean standards. There is shops where you can buy take always and there is hire of boats, deckchairs and water sports are available in main seasons. But if you are like me and like something a bit more active there are also many places to drive to and visit. Around Dartmouth is a family park called Woodlands, which is said to be “60 Acres of fun”. It includes the normal water coasters, play zones, cafes, toboggans, bumper boats and animals and birds. I would recommend this for anyone with children of a young age. Although it is aimed at all ages, I think this would appeal more to younger parties. To get most active days out, you will have to travel and the closest
                                  attractions seem to be in Torquay and Paignton. As well as there being a famous Abbey in Torquay there are also caverns, which are interesting and aimed at all ages, a Victorian street and model village. I went to the model village before and to be honest, I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t very big and the models seemed old and dated. The main things to do in Torquay is look around the shops. There is a big arcade, big high street names, a peer, cinemas and lots of pubs and clubs. Torquay seems a very active and lively place with a great nightlife. As you walk along the docks, you can’t help but think you are in Spain due to the palm trees and the general atmosphere of the town. If you go to Paignton with young children, there is a big zoo there that explores 6 of the World’s habitats over 75 acres. The zoo is very interesting and educational and even appeared on BBC1’s “The zoo keepers.” If there was one place I would recommend for most ages, it would be Paigntons Quaywest. It is very easy to find due to road signs and it is placed on the wonderful Goodrington Sands. Quaywest is a water theme park with lots to do in and out of the water. It is only £7.50 for adults to go in and it’s well worth it. Uni-sex changing rooms and then a set of showers with warm water greet you. If there is one fault, I would say the teenage assistant chewing vigorously who was rude to me wasn’t the best first impression. The park is huge with many slides. I loved the rubber ring slides, which were fast, but after 10 seconds rapids stopped you where everyone gathered. I fell off my ring many times to the amusement of my boyfriend and on lookers. There are two rides where you shoot down. I only went on one, as I was scared of the other! The one I went on was long with a small vertical drop. I advise you to be careful and do lie down and not sit up as I was thrown around like a rag doll and my swimming costume got lodged up my b
                                  um- lovely! Also any girls with big chests be careful as some people fell out of their tops! On the one vertical drop, do be careful as my boyfriend cut his arm and when he reached the bottom, everything was on show! The best rides though were the mat rides even though I kept losing my mat! They were fast and exciting each time. There are refreshments and also swimming pools to have fun in. All the water is heated to 80oF. When you have finished in the water I advise you go on the beach or to the pub for a lovely meal or quiet drink. All is on the site. I went go carting and playing crazy golf after, all was very fun and the bumper boats provided many giggles, especially for the granny on lookers! In the centre of Dartmouth there are many boat trips that will take you around the beaches. Most boats include entertainment, meals and a bar. So I suppose all that’s left to say now is, if you are going to Dartmouth, I hope you have a great time, and if you are thinking of going, I hope my points have helped. Dartmouth really is a lovely place and worth far more recognition. For some places to go in and around Dartmouth see below some useful links; ) Cockington Court craft studio- 01803 606035 Bygones Life size Victorian street- 01803 326108 www.bygones.co.uk Babbacombe Model Village- 01803 315315 www.babbacombemodelvillage.co.uk Kents Cavern- 01803 215136 www.kents-cavern.co.uk Torre Abbey- 01803 293593 www.torre-abbey.org.uk Paignton & Dartmouth steam railway- 01803 555872 Quaywest- 01803 555550 www.quaywest.co.uk Paignton zoo- 01803 697500 www.paigntonzoo.co.uk Dartmouth Castle- 01803 833588 www.english-heritage.org.uk Blackpool sands- 01803 770606 www.blackpool-sands.co.uk Woodlands- 01803 712598 www.woodlands-leasurepark.co.uk

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